New first aid technique could save shark bite victims

By AAP 27 September 2021
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
An Australian National University scientist and surfer has developed a simple new method to cut blood loss for shark bite victims.

A simple first-aid technique could give shark bite victims vital minutes of survival until emergency services can get to them.

The Australian National University has found a new method of stemming blood loss from people if they’re bitten on the leg.

Dr Nicholas Taylor says technique involved a bystander using their fist to apply pressure between a person’s hip and groin, or “push hard between the hips and the bits”, to pinch the femoral artery closed.

“If someone has been bitten on their leg, you only need to find the middle point between the hip and the genitals, make a fist and push as hard as you can,” the ANU expert said.

“We found people can do this for a long period of time and making a fist covers the area you need. It’s not hard to find. It could even be marked with an X on a wetsuit.”

The vast majority of shark victims die from blood loss after they have been bitten rather than from the impact of the initial strike.

Dr Taylor, who is a surfer, came up with the idea after realising that most people only get bitten once by sharks and if you could stop one limb bleeding, it would give a victim a much better chance of survival.

“I thought, if you make it to the beach with a friend and they’re bleeding from the leg, what would be the best thing you could do,” he said.

“I knew from my background in emergency medicine if people have massive bleeding from their leg, you can push very hard on the femoral artery and you can pretty much cut the entire blood flow of the leg that way.”

Related: Bull sharks: fact from fiction

The ANU study, published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, compared Dr Taylor’s push technique with a traditional tourniquet bandage in 34 people.

It found the push technique cut blood flow by almost 90 per cent, while a tourniquet only reduced flow by just under 44 per cent.

The push method also completely stopped blood flow for three in four study participants.

“Most people could completely stop all blood flow. This new method saves time and works better than using a leg rope or looking for something else to use as a tourniquet,” Dr Taylor said.

The ANU study found no significant difference in the push method’s effectiveness if people were wearing wetsuits or not.

Dr Taylor would like to see the new method taught to people in Australia and signs explaining it to be installed at beaches.

“I want to get it out in the surf community. I want people to know that if someone gets bitten you can pull out the patient, push as hard as you can in this midpoint spot and it can stop almost all of the blood flow,” he said.