If you're bitten by a shark, this new technique could help save your life
Researchers say they have found a new technique that could save the lives of shark attack victims, and all it involves is applying pressure near the victim's groin.
According to the Australian National University (ANU) study, the most common cause of death in shark attack victims who were bitten below the torso but survived their initial attack was blood loss.
So, researchers from the ANU found that applying pressure to the femoral artery — running from the pelvis through the thighs — could stop victims from bleeding out and buy crucial time until paramedics arrived.
"In shark attacks, most people don't actually get bitten twice and they can make it back to the shore," lead researcher of the study Nicholas Taylor said.
"I thought, if you make it to the beach with a friend and they're bleeding from the leg, what would be the best thing you could do?"
Dr Taylor said often people only had a matter of minutes to stop bleeding after a trauma to their lower body.
"People, when they have a large artery torn, only have a few minutes before you can almost completely lose all your blood volume. And it's very hard to try and stop bleeding out of an artery by pushing on the wound itself," Dr Taylor said.
The new technique requires people who are attending to a shark attack victim to "push hard halfway between the hips and the bits" — in the groin area.
"Put your fist in that central midpoint area, halfway between the hips and the bits, and then push as much force as you can down through your straight arm through that point," Dr Taylor said.
"If you use a straight arm and your bodyweight from your back and your shoulders it's a much easier technique than trying to push down with your wrist or your forearm," he added.
And the good news is: anyone can do it.
The study, published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, found no difference to the effectiveness of this technique depending on strength or body size.
The study showed the first-aid technique stopped 100 per cent of blood flow in 75 per cent of participants.
Blood flow was stopped on average by 89.7 per cent by making a fist and pushing hard on the midpoint, compared to using a tourniquet, which only reduced blood flow by 43.8 per cent.
"Most people could completely stop all blood flow. This new method saves time and works better than using a leg rope or looking for something else to use as a tourniquet," Dr Taylor said.
In the study, comparisons were also done with and without wetsuits, which had no significant influence.
Dr Taylor said he was hopeful the new technique could be signposted across Australian beaches.
Other first responders welcome potentially life-saving techniques
Australian Paramedics Association NSW president Chris Kastelan said while the technique would need to be approved by the relevant authorities, it could help stabilise a victim before paramedics arrive.
"That would certainly provide the individual who has suffered that trauma a greater chance of survival," he said.
"It would also mean that as paramedics arrive, the patient may not be as critically unwell from blood loss once they start treatment on the patient."
He said that anything that could potentially save lives should be considered.
"Ultimately we are talking about a really significant event, major trauma with major blood loss. So any guidelines that would help a person on the beach to help save the life of another person would obviously be a good thing," he said.
A spokesperson from Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) said the organisation followed the Australian Resuscitation Council guidelines but welcomed any new updates the council might make as new techniques emerge.
"SLSA, its medical advisor and the medical advisory group always welcome new options and techniques of performing first aid to ultimately save lives," the spokesperson said.
"SLSA looks forward to receiving further information to understand and review the new technique in relation to shark bite injuries in more detail."
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