Join Us | Latest Articles | Contact

Journal Home

Editorial Board


Submit to this journal

Current issue

Trauma Cases and Reviews

DOI: 10.23937/2469-5777/1510039

Wilderness Care of Acute Traumatic Wounds Curriculum

Caleb D Sunde* and Susanne J Spano

Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California San Francisco, Fresno, USA

*Corresponding author: Caleb D Sunde, M.D, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California San Francisco, Fresno, 155 N. Fresno ST, Fresno, CA 93701, USA, Tel: (559) 499-6440, Fax: (559) 499-6441, E-mail:
Trauma Cases Rev, TCR-2-039, (Volume 2, Issue 2), Perspective/Opinions; ISSN: 2469-5777
Received: May 23, 2016 | Accepted: July 18, 2016 | Published: July 20, 2016
Citation: Sunde CD, Spano SJ (2016) Wilderness Care of Acute Traumatic Wounds Curriculum. Trauma Cases Rev 2:039. 10.23937/2469-5777/1510039
Copyright: © 2016 Sunde CD, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Introduction: A comprehensive approach to wound care is critical when in the wilderness where definitive care may be hours, days or weeks away. The limitation of resources and the variety of acute traumatic wounds presents a management challenge. Resources for wilderness experiences with wound care are sparse. We developed an adaptable curriculum to teach participants of all levels how to appropriately manage wounds using established and improvised techniques.

Methods: The curriculum is an instructor-guided course designed to be an interactive presentation requiring two hours. It is presented in three parts. First, a brief description of a general approach to wounds highlighting pearls and pitfalls. Second, small groups rotate through four stations: wilderness closure techniques, a vascular damage wound model, water sterilization and wound irrigation strategies, and a case report discussion. A debriefing concludes the workshop.

Results: Participants are evaluated via direct observation, verbal feedback, and group discussion.

Conclusion: We were able to create an interactive, adaptable, and cost-effective curriculum to teach improvised wound care techniques.


Acute traumatic wounds consistently rank in the top ten reasons for emergency room visits for adult males and pediatric patients under the age of 15 [1]. It has been estimated by Flores that the annual rate of outdoor recreational injuries is 72.1 per 100,000 population, with 14.8% being lacerations [2]. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) maintains an incident database; from 1998 to 2002 there were 1940 reported injuries, of which 31% were non athletic soft tissue injuries [3]. In the wil-derness setting, a comprehensive approach to acute wound care is especially critical. Definitive treatment can be hours to weeks away. The limitation of available medical resources and the variety of acute traumatic wounds present a challenge. This instructional module presents an evidence-based approach to acute wound management, describes techniques that are applicable in remote and un-clean environments, and provides a hands-on experience to adult learners. The information is appli-cable to learners of all backgrounds. Both medical professionals and laypeople are likely to be unfa-miliar with treating wounds with limited resources; it is in the setting that small decisions may have great impacts on clinical outcomes. We developed an adaptable curriculum to teach participants of all levels how to appropriately manage wounds using established and improvised techniques.


The "Wound Management in the Wilderness Workshop" is an instructor-guided, interactive presenta-tion requiring approximately two hours. The intended audience is medical and allied health profes-sionals. The workshop structure involves a brief introduction on pearls of wound management, four small group sessions, and a summary and participant evaluation. Four interactive stations are used for instruction: wound closures, water purification and wound irrigation, vascular damage and hemosta-sis, and a case review. Supplies used for each station are listed in table 1.

Table 1: Suggested supply list by station. View Table 1

Station 1: Wound closure

Participants are instructed in wound closure using pig's feet. Instruments, suture options, and proper technique should be demonstrated prior to participant practice of simple-interrupted sutures and knot tying. Direct observation of participants facilitates proper technique. While most people are unlikely to carry suture materials in the backcountry, practicing this technique may help with the understand-ing of improvised closure methods and the goals of wound closure. Improvised techniques are dis-cussed as participants practice suturing. The techniques covered use materials easily carried in a first aid kid and include: duct tape steri-strips, wound adhesives, and the hair apposition technique (HAT) [4].

Station 2: Irrigation and foreign body management

Basic purification methods (boiling, pump/mechanical filters, UV filters, and chemical purification) are demonstrated after open-ended queries on standards for wound irrigant solutions. The principals of volume and force of irrigation with improvised wound irrigation systems are empirically chal-lenged by experimenting with potential 'wilderness' irrigation devices. Participants test the subjec-tive forces resulting from maximum compression of a water bottle with 14 gauge needle holes punc-tured in the cap, a sports-top water bottle, a 10 cc first aid kit syringe, a commercially available water filter cleaning syringe, a bladder-type hydration pack, and plastic zip top bags pierced with a 14 gauge angiocatheter. Wound foreign bodies are discussed via scenarios and photographs of contami-nated wounds and participants were queried on optimal management options. Photographs are sourced from personal collections and published sources and include a figure from a case report of blunt carotid injury from a penetrating stick [5], a linear superficial injury with a clean kitchen knife, an abrasion with embedded granite, and a jagged laceration at point of impact from a fall on an out-stretched hand (FOOSH).

Station 3: Vascular damage

A commercial moulage model of a significant bleeding upper extremity wound is utilized to address critical actions to control bleeding. A clinical scenario of uncontrolled bleeding eventually requiring placement of a tourniquet proximal to the wound is repeated multiple times. First, participants are allowed to problem solve on their own after being told there is a large wound with bleeding that con-tinues to soak through all dressings and interventions until some type of tourniquet is placed proxi-mal to the injury. Materials (gauze, bandanas, belts, etc) are made available but no instruction is giv-en. Participants then receive direct feedback on proper methods of wound packing and pressure dressing placement. Tourniquet application, using both commercial and improvised methods, is sub-sequently practiced in pairs first unaided and then followed by focused feedback and instruction. The scenario is practiced a final time without feedback to demonstrate learned critical interventions.

Station 4: Case review

A case discussion station centers on an article, "They had me in stitches: a Grand Canyon river guide's case report and a review of wilderness wound management literature" [6]. The article presents a real life example of a simple wound sustained on a rafting trip, common pitfalls of wilderness wound management, and the potential serious sequelae of even simple wounds that are not aggres-sively and appropriately managed. Complications including poor wound healing, infections, and hemorrhage are specifically emphasized during the discussion as the risk of these can be reduced with the techniques covered in the course.

Each of the stations are directly proctored and discussion questions that are appropriate for each sta-tion and sample answers can be found in table 2. Since groups can be lead by different proctors and experiences differ slightly, these questions are reviewed with key take home points reinforced at the debriefing at the conclusion of the station activity. Direct feedback on strengths and weaknesses of the activity are solicited prior to the conclusion of the course.

Table 2: Discussion questions for each station. View Table 2


The Wounds in the Wilderness curriculum has been used to teach multi-specialty practicing physi-cians, undergraduate and graduate students, medical residents, and the general public. Workshops can be tailored to specific audiences and each session may be unique given a variety of backgrounds and experiences that are shared through the interactive experience.

Total equipment costs for the workshop is estimated at $800-900 with the most expensive item being a durable, re-usable wound model. A cost per participant has not been established as we have so far taught it on a volunteer basis. Wound models are available through online retailers at varying costs. Some items used in our workshop (water filters) were personal items owned by instructors and many were common supplies available through our residency program's teaching resources, which limited our actual overall cost.

Informal feedback from participants during and at the conclusion of the workshop has been consist-ently overwhelmingly positive. A limitation of this curriculum is the lack of formal testing to objec-tively measure retention of knowledge; however, direct observation in the application of skills taught demonstrated skill competence in participants by the end of the sessions. Participants across an array of educational and experiential backgrounds leave the course with skills that they may be of practical utility in real wilderness emergencies. Another limitation of the curriculum is the lack of follow up to determine if there is skill fatigue (from lack of use) in learners who do not regularly manage wounds as part of their professional setting. There may be more skill retention with a longer course. Although, our two hour course focuses on crucial, basic techniques which are repeatedly practiced.


Wounds in the Wilderness is an interactive, adaptable, cost-effective model for engaging our commu-nity and teaching basic wound care with real world application. We hope this curriculum inspires others to share their knowledge and to learn more about wilderness medicine, and we will continue to refine the material and expand our audiences for a richer learning experience.

Study concept and design: SJS; Obtaining funding: N/A; Acquisition of the data: CDS, SJS; Analysis of the data: CDS, SJS; Drafting of the manuscript: CDS, SJS; Critical revision of the manuscript: CDS, SJS; Approval of final manuscript: CDS, SJS.

Financial/Material Support




Source(s) of Support

None to disclose.

Disclosure of Authors' Potential Conflicts of Interest

None to disclose.

  1. Nicks B, Ayello E, Woo K, Nitzki-George D, Sibbald RG (2010) Acute wound management: revisiting the approach to assessment, irrigation, and closure considerations. Int J Emerg Med 3: 399-407.

  2. Flores AH, Haileyesus T, Greenspan AI (2008) National estimates of outdoor recreational injuries treated in emergency departments, United States, 2004-2005. Wilderness Environ Med 19: 91-98.

  3. Leemon D, Schimelpfenig T (2003) Wilderness injury, illness, and evacuation: National Outdoor Leadership School's incident profiles 1999-2002. Wilderness Eviron Med 14: 174-182.

  4. Lin M (2010) Tricks of the Trade: Closing a Pediatric Scalp Laceration. ACEP News.

  5. Wijeyaratne SM, Weerasinghe C, Cassin MR (2010) Blunt carotid injury from a penetrating stick: an unexpected injury. BMJ Case Reports.

  6. Spano SJ, Dimock B (2014) They Had Me in Stitches: A Grand Canyon River Guide's Case Report and a Review of Wilderness Wound Management Literature. Wilderness Environ Med 25: 182-189.

International Journal of Anesthetics and Anesthesiology (ISSN: 2377-4630)
International Journal of Blood Research and Disorders   (ISSN: 2469-5696)
International Journal of Brain Disorders and Treatment (ISSN: 2469-5866)
International Journal of Cancer and Clinical Research (ISSN: 2378-3419)
International Journal of Clinical Cardiology (ISSN: 2469-5696)
Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Treatment (ISSN: 2469-584X)
Clinical Medical Reviews and Case Reports (ISSN: 2378-3656)
Journal of Dermatology Research and Therapy (ISSN: 2469-5750)
International Journal of Diabetes and Clinical Research (ISSN: 2377-3634)
Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention (ISSN: 2469-5793)
Journal of Genetics and Genome Research (ISSN: 2378-3648)
Journal of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology (ISSN: 2469-5858)
International Journal of Immunology and Immunotherapy (ISSN: 2378-3672)
International Journal of Medical Nano Research (ISSN: 2378-3664)
International Journal of Neurology and Neurotherapy (ISSN: 2378-3001)
International Archives of Nursing and Health Care (ISSN: 2469-5823)
International Journal of Ophthalmology and Clinical Research (ISSN: 2378-346X)
International Journal of Oral and Dental Health (ISSN: 2469-5734)
International Journal of Pathology and Clinical Research (ISSN: 2469-5807)
International Journal of Pediatric Research (ISSN: 2469-5769)
International Journal of Respiratory and Pulmonary Medicine (ISSN: 2378-3516)
Journal of Rheumatic Diseases and Treatment (ISSN: 2469-5726)
International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine (ISSN: 2469-5718)
International Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy (ISSN: 2469-570X)
International Journal of Surgery Research and Practice (ISSN: 2378-3397)
Trauma Cases and Reviews (ISSN: 2469-5777)
International Archives of Urology and Complications (ISSN: 2469-5742)
International Journal of Virology and AIDS (ISSN: 2469-567X)
More Journals

Contact Us

ClinMed International Library | Science Resource Online LLC
3511 Silverside Road, Suite 105, Wilmington, DE 19810, USA


Get Email alerts
Creative Commons License
Open Access
by ClinMed International Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License based on a work at
Copyright © 2017 ClinMed International Library. All Rights Reserved.