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Injury to femoral artery hard to treat

11/27/2007 - NFL Sean Taylor

The type of wound suffered by Washington Redskins player Sean Taylor is among the most difficult to fix, trauma experts said
Tuesday after the 24-year-old gunshot victim died in a Miami
hospital.

Even in a healthy young athlete with access to top trauma care,
gunfire tearing through the main artery of the upper leg and
abdomen can cause quick, massive blood loss. Doctors who treated
Taylor have not given details of his injury or his emergency
surgery, but several experts speculate that blood loss is likely
what killed him.

Taylor was shot at his Miami home early Monday by an apparent
intruder and airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The body has two femoral arteries that branch off from about
mid-abdomen into each thigh. They are among the body's biggest
vessels, and in the groin area and upper thigh, are about as big
around as an index finger.

Stopping blood loss gushing from a bullet hole in that region
can be extremely challenging if the wound is close to the groin. It
would be hard to put a tourniquet around it, said Dr. Gannon
Dudlar, an emergency medicine specialist at the University of
Illinois Medical Center in Chicago.

An injury of this type "essentially means you can lose all the
blood in your whole body within five minutes," said Dr. Mary Pat
McKay, director of George Washington University's Center for Injury
Prevention and Control.

Rapid blood loss can prevent oxygen from reaching the brain and
vital organs, leading to death.

"Everybody last night was breathing a sigh of relief that he
survived the surgery, but his body went through" too long a period
of blood loss, McKay guessed.

"Even a young healthy athlete, his body organs may be so
compromised that they just can't continue," she said.

Dr. Fahim Habib, a trauma surgeon at Jackson Memorial where
Taylor died, said massive blood loss sets into a motion a series of
devastating events.

Blood pressure falls dangerously low, the body tries mightily to
get blood to vital organs, and then the body's temperature drops
below normal, said Habib, speaking generally and with no knowledge
of Taylor's specific injuries.

"When you get these three together, it's called the triad of
death. Once that happens, it suggests that the physiologic injury
is so severe that the body does not have the ability to overcome"
it, Habib said.