I am in Iceland (yes, Iceland) for a couple of days to give a talk at a conference -- more on that in a moment -- and I was reading an article about Icelandic shrimp in Atlantica, the Icelandic Air airplane magazine. I ripped it out at the time because I thought it was interesting but didn´t think about it again until tonight when I was eating some of those exact shrimp at a reception.
It appears that there is a carbohydrate -- chitosan -- derived from the exoskeletons of Icelandic shrimp that is applied to bandages that have a high success rate in external hemorrhage control in combat operations. According to this article, the company that makes them is based in Oregon and is called HemCon and has apparently sold more than 400,000 bandages to the US Army.
The good news is that the bandages help. The bad news, of course, is that they are needed by our armed forces and by civilians in war zones. (Before anyone asks, I do not know if BIDMC or any of our faculty ever have had any financial relationship with this company -- and I have not had a chance to check with our folks in Boston, so I can´t find out right now -- but I doubt it. There is a very large trauma service in Seattle, and I would bet that clinical trials would have taken place there.)
By the way, the local shrimp are delicious and are served peeled (maybe to send the exoskeletons to work as bandages.)
The conference I am attending is called the Nordic Conference for University Hospitals and Faculty Deans, with attendees from Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, and three of us guest speakers from Calgary, Manchester (UK) and Boston. I always worry a bit when I am invited to speak at these things because I have so little knowledge of the field compared to others, but I liked the topic I was assigned. It is "Never let the practice of medicine be replaced by the business of medicine." Of course I agree with that, but I also think part of the topic has to be "Never forget that the business of medicine can affect the practice of medicine."
What´s really interesting is that these countries, which have national health insurance systems, are feeling the pinch more and more from their legislative bodies. Members of parliament are upset with the rising costs of health care and want to see more efficiency and higher quality. The underlying system is not likely to change, but hospital CEOs are expected to deliver more for less, and they look towards our US experience for ideas and suggestions.
I can´t wait to see what I am going to say during my talk tomorrow. If I come back wearing lots of shrimp-laced bandages, you will know that it didn´t go very well.
P.S. I took this picture of a waterfall east of Reykjavik at a World Heritage Site called Þingvellir National Park.