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Product Review: The “Israeli Bandage”

One of the oft overlooked aspects of the military in general are the small items that form part of a soldier’s kit. While the vast majority of these items are very mundane, indeed, occasionally an item appears which offers a sea-change in its sphere.

The Emergency Bandage, invented by former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) medic Bernard Bar-Natan in 1994, was first combat-proven during peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and is now widely deployed and manufactured by many companies, such as PerSlys Medical, is one such product.

While mass produced, purpose-designed combat first aid dressings date back to the early 1920’s with the advent of the “Carlisle Dressing“, developed at the US Army’s Carlisle Barracks, in the aftermath of World War One, surprisingly little further development occurred until PerSys Medical’s design came along. The Carlisle Bandage was a simple affair, simply a sterile dressing on one side, backed by a gauze, later cotton, cloth backing used to secure it in place. (Indeed, Bar-Natan attributes his drive to invent the bandage with being issued Carlisle bandages manufactured in 1938, during his time as an IDF medic.)

While the Carlisle and its successors were useful, and certainly saved lives on the battlefield, they were far from perfect solutions. The dressings frequently came loose, and the design allowed for a great deal of contamination to enter the wound area, even if tightly secured in place. The only way to effectively protect the wound from post-trauma infection was to apply an ace-type elastic wrap after applying the battle wound dressing. Obviously, this was rarely done, as medics tended to use the space and weight of the ace wrap to carry extra bandages, instead.

Variants of the Carlisle were used all the way into the 1990’s, two being included in the first-aid kit of the day, until the deployment of the modern IFAK, which includes the “Emergency Dressing”, as it is termed by the US Military.

Bar-Natan’s design abandoned the simplicity of the Carlisle, in favor of a significantly improved version which, although somewhat more complex to use, provides far better care for an injury victim. The Emergency Bandage comes already attached to an ace-type wrap, which is integral to the dressing’s function. After removal, the sterile side of the dressing is applied as direct pressure to the wound area, and the elastic wrap is wound one turn around the extremity (or the torso or head), until it meets the second essential part of the design.

U.S. Military First Aid Kit. US Department of Defense photo.

The Emergency Bandage’s patented “pressure bar” is a stirrup-shaped device mounted directly with the elastic wrap. Slipping the wrap through the stirrup of the pressure bar, then reversing the direction of the wrap, causes the pressure bar to exert a mild tourniquet-type force against the wound. This results in the creation of an additional barrier to external media contaminating the injury. The wrap is then secured in place by the bandage’s closure bar, which hooks into the bandage in much the same way as a ballpoint pen clipping to a shirt pocket.

US Military-issue IFAK, 2012. US Army photo.

Additionally, the Emergency Bandage can in many instances be self-applied one-handed, something extremely difficult, if not impossible, with the Carlisle-model dressing family.

Mated to QuikClot-impregnated gauze, this provides a very powerful field dressing that is practical, easy to use and easy to train on. Indeed, the Emergency Bandage has been credited with saving many of the victims of the notorious 2011 shooting in Tucson, AZ, in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded.

The Emergency Bandage – the “Israeli Bandage” to many US troops – has saved, and continues to save, lives in combat theaters and disaster emergencies, around the world.

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