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Show full transcript for Hemostatic Agents video

A hemostatic dressing is any dressing treated with an agent or chemical that assists with the formation of blood clots. Much like tourniquets, hemostatic dressings are used with direct pressure to help control severe, life-threatening bleeding.

Hemostatic dressings are usually only considered an option if:

  • The bleeding is life-threatening
  • The standard procedure of direct pressure failed
  • The injury is located where a tourniquet wouldn't work, such as the torso, abdomen, groin, and neck
  • A tourniquet was unavailable or ineffective

How to Provide Care

After you make sure the scene is safe, proceed with the following steps.

  1. Put on latex-free gloves if available or wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water or a sanitizer of some kind, preferably with alcohol.
  2. If the victim is conscious and not in shock or showing signs of other life-threatening injuries, ask him or her to help apply pressure to the wound.
  3. Once you determine that direct pressure alone isn't working, and you've decided against using a tourniquet, apply a hemostatic agent or dressing to the wound followed by more direct pressure.

Pro Tip 1: Hemostatic agents come in powders and dressing pads of numerous sizes. For large open wounds, you can pour the powder into the wound which will help speed up blood coagulation and clotting. If you're using hemostatic dressing with a large open wound, make sure you pack the dressing deep into the wound and apply continuous pressure until the bleeding is controlled.

Hemostatic agents are an ideal option when EMS services are delayed or unavailable, perhaps in a wilderness setting, or when normal bleeding control options are ineffective. And like tourniquets, when it comes to hemostatic agents, you're just trying to buy some time before getting the victim to a surgical center for proper care.

A Word About Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding is the blood loss from veins, arteries, and capillaries into spaces inside the body. This can be caused by injuries like blunt force trauma and fractures, but also due to certain medical conditions.

Internal bleeding can also include external bleeding from the same incident. Consider how a knife wound could cause both internal and external bleeding simultaneously.

Common signs of internal bleeding include:

  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Bruising and tenderness
  • Nausea, vomiting, or coughing up blood
  • Discolored, painful, tender, swollen, or firm tissue
  • Victim protectively guarding the injury area
  • Rapid pulse or breathing
  • Moist, cool skin
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Drop in blood pressure

If you suspect that someone is bleeding internally, call 911 immediately and help keep the victim as still and calm as possible to reduce the heart's blood output. Also keep an eye on the victim for any signs of shock.

Pro Tip 2: When internal bleeding is from the capillary blood vessels, the result is bruising around the wound area and is not serious. To reduce discomfort for the victim, you can apply an ice pack to the area.

Like internal bleeding, injuries requiring a hemostatic dressing should be considered serious. And as with all bleeding injuries, you simply want to find the bleeding and stop the bleeding, by any means necessary.