Health Beat: Burn mapping for wounded warriors

Health Beat: Burn mapping for wounded warriors

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Statistics show more than 2,500 U.S. troops have been burned while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Keeping track of those injuries and how they're healing used to involve a very low-tech process, but a new high-tech system could help save lives.

"I think I've had like 60 different surgeries," said Mario Lopez, whose vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

"I got burned over 54 percent of my body," Lopez said.

Until recently, military medical professionals used paper and colored pencils to keep track of troops' burns. Wound care coordinator CD Peterson said it was the standard, but it does leave room for error. Now, WoundFlow is becoming the new standard.

"It gives us a more accurate calculation," explained Peterson, of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center.

With a laptop or tablet, caregivers color in the degree of the burn and how much of the body is burned. The percentage is automatically calculated. All the information is updated as patients progress. WoundFlow has helped find a pattern that shows if a patient is not healing at a certain rate after 21 days

"Those patients will have an extremely high mortality rate," said Jose Salinas, research task area manager at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.

Now, therapies can be adjusted if that pattern is spotted and hopefully, "we save more patients that way," Peterson said.

Right now, WoundFlow is only being used at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, which is home to one of the best burn centers in the country. Developers said the program is constantly being tweaked to make it better. There are also plans to add gunshot and knife wound mapping capabilities to the program.

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