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To Hemostat Or Not To Hemostat (A Guide to the Gauze Market)

Over the years I've heard a number of statements and stances about hemostatic vs. standard gauze. I'd like to give you an overview of both as well as some other wound packing options.

So what is hemostatic gauze and what does it do?

Hemostat is just like regular packing gauze, but it has a hemostatic agent which clots the blood and in turn stops bleeding faster. This is especially important when seconds mean the difference between life and death.

There are two major types of hemostatic agents: chitosan and kaolin. Combat gauze pictured above is impregnated with kaolin, which is an inorganic mineral. There are several products that are impregnated with chitosan, which is a sugar obtained from shellfish. If a gauze that you are considering does not contain one of these two agents and claims to be hemostatic— you should probably look into it further.

Why not just buy all hemostat?

This can be answered in one word- price. The average standard packing gauze is $1.50-$5. Hemostatic gauze will cost you over $50 for the same amount. So it really works, but you're also getting what you pay for. There is also an expiration date on all hemostats.

My recommendation would be to buy one or two packs of hemostat and then fill your med kit and other supplies with as much standard packing gauze that will fit. I've never actually packed a live wound, but what I've heard from everyone who actually has is that you need a lot more gauze to fill the wound and create a lifesaving amount of pressure. The order of operations when packing is always to start with the hemostat, come in with the standard gauze and wrap the area with a trauma dressing to increase pressure.

That is also worth mentioning. If you can't afford hemostat or don't have any, it's not the end of the world. At the end of the day what's going to stop bleeding is pressure. So train, train, train, and train some more to get that gauze packed in there tight. The most realistic and eye opening training I've done was on a piece of meat that was stabbed and was being pumped full of fake blood. That gave me a great idea of what it's going to look and feel like in the real situation. However, you don't need to go that far to get quality reps in. An amazing way to train is to cut some different oddly shaped holes in a yoga block and practice packing those.

If you found this article interesting or informative, you should check out this video from Prep Medic explaining what I covered today.

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