While it is difficult to prepare for a mass casualty event, trauma surgeons are trained to handle it. However, with stronger weapons come more severe injuries.
“With higher velocity bullets, it transfers more energy to the tissue, there’s more tissue damage, more bleeding and when you have more bullets then yeah they’re more severe,” said Dr. David Ciesla, director of the trauma program at Tampa General Hospital.
“The guns themselves have higher-capacity magazines so people come in with more wounds, more gunshots than they used to,” Ciesla continued.
The tragedy in Orlando this month has given medical professionals a vivid and jarring reminder of the damage that guns can do.
“It’s almost like time stopped,” Dr. Joshua Stephany, a medical examiner in Orlando, told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Wednesday in his first media interview since the incident. “TVs were playing in the background; strobe lights were blinking; drinks had just been poured, food half-eaten, checks about to be paid. It was truly like time stood still.”
More than 60% of cell phone owners find themselves checking for notifications even if their phone isn’t ringing or vibrating, but for doctors in the Orlando area this weekend, the ringing was non-stop.
At Tampa General Hospital, physicians are seeing fewer gunshot victims than they used to, but the wounds do tend to be more severe.
The good news: new technology is helping increase the survival rate of those patients.
“A lot of these innovations have come from battlefield casualties, what the military medics and surgeons have learned, you know, in times of war,” said Ciesla.
The most important of these innovations was finding a way to stop bleeding.
“These are active clotting agents and you can impregnate them in dressings or create other types of compounds that will promote blood clotting,” says Ciesla.
The approach to trauma care has vastly improved over the decades, enabling medical professionals to save more and more patients.
“All things being equal, I think things are much more survivable than they had been,” Ciesla concludes.