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Human Performance and Medical Treatment and Support During Cold weather Operations

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Human Factors and Medicine

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Biosensors, Biotechnologies, Freezing Cold Injuries, Human Performance, Medical Equipment, Medical Treatment, NonFreezing Cold Injuries, Nutrition, Textiles


Access to the Arctic is increasing due to climate change. Military monitoring of Arctic regions by NATO nations will be required, however, in the foreseeable future un-manned surveillance technologies will not replace the need for human military presence in this austere environment. To survey our knowledge gaps about state-of-the-art science and technology pertaining to sustaining and enhancing human performance and treatment of injuries in extreme cold conditions a two day workshop (HFM 225 “Cold Extreme Environments Operations”) was held in 2014 and the subsequent HFM 142 Exploratory Team extracted key S&T theme areas with the aims to operationalize these themes through this proposed RTG.


Military operations in cold climates necessitates innovative modifications to the practice of medicine. New concepts will be explored and tested to prevent and treat non-freezing injuries (whole body cooling or “hypothermia”) and freezing injuries (traditionally known as “frostbite” – where the peripheral tissue freezes and causes permanent damage). Parallel long-range preventive solutions to Arctic / cold medicine including human nutrition and human performance enhancement technologies (ranging across advanced techniques, technologies and advanced textiles) will also be explored and tested in laboratory settings, and in coordinated and collaborative field trials.


i. The Cause of Increased Rate of Infectious Disease in cold (humid) environments: Limited evidence indicates there is a potential for acceleration of colonization-to-infections and disease in cold environments (with reported cases of atypical pneumonia). This S&T activity will aim to understand the process, aetiology, culturing, planning and prevention. ii. Enhance Arctic (Cold) Nutrition: The RTG will investigate the prevalence of voluntary underfeeding and target individuality and feeding aspects by studying the use of personalized medicine. We will study the optimum carbohydrate vs. protein ratio for cold weather deployments. The RTG will also study the risk of long-term rations consumption and cold injury vulnerability. iii. Treating and PreventingNon Freezing Cold Injuries (NFCI): Evidence suggests that some ethnic groups may be more susceptible to NFCI. In lower-latitude temperate nations, especially UK and other European nations, greater numbers of ethnically diverse soldiers are recruited. This RTG will examine the feasibility of a new diagnostic test of NFCI susceptibility, and in parallel, improve the understanding of NFCI pathophysiology as it relates to ethnicity. The ethnicity aspect of NFCI risk will be challenged and validated with an improved understanding of the genetics, physiology and risks, mechanisms. iv. Treating and Preventing Freezing Cold Injuries (FCI): The RTG will study preventive aspects of cold freezing injuries by exploring the use of novel physiological limb/thoracic heating techniques to induce peripheral vasodilation to prevent FCI. The RTG will scan other preventive techniques, which include new textiles and insulation technologies. v. Adapting the Practice of Medicine in the Cold: An overarching goal of this RTG is defining protocols and guidelines for temperate climate medical care that may not be appropriate or useful in cold environments. These include (a) a re-evaluation of the ‘golden hour’ when treating in the cold; (b) improve understanding of health care provider needs and logistics (health protection, professional upgrades); (c) explore technologies that improve health care providers’ finger warmth when performing procedures in cold environments; (d) explore medical kit and functionality in low temperatures. vi. Formulation of Cold Weather Medical Injury/Incident Data Base. As part of the RTG data collection and experimental opportunities, the RTG will access and enlarge medical records (for both CFI and NCFI’s). This will set the stage for development of future STANAG’s. vii. Cold Weather Physiological Sensor Development and Collaborative Testing in lab and field settings: We will leverage the RTG’s network of industry and academia to carry out this development and testing. These include HFM 260 “Enhanced Warfighter Effectiveness with Wearable Bio-Sensors and Physiological Models”, and existing USARIEM S&T sensor development collaborations (US and CA).

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