(NaturalNews) It is being hailed as breakthrough technology and something that would be especially useful for the military - yet it is a concept so amazingly simple that you may wonder why someone didn't develop it sooner.
According to Popular Science
, one of the most difficult duties on the battlefield is dressing wounds - gunshot wounds, wounds caused by shrapnel, penetrating wounds of varying kinds - in part because it is traumatic and painful for the wounded soldier:A medic must pack gauze directly into the wound cavity, sometimes as deep as 5 inches into the body, to stop bleeding from an artery. It's an agonizing process that doesn't always work--if bleeding hasn't stopped after three minutes of applying direct pressure, the medic must pull out all the gauze and start over again. It's so painful, "you take the guy's gun away first," says former U.S. Army Special Operations medic John Steinbaugh.
Despite this emergency measure, many wounded soldiers bleed to death anyway; blood loss is, as you might have guessed, a major cause of death on the battlefield.
"Gauze bandages just don't work for anything serious," Steinbaugh, who treated wounded soldiers during more than a dozen deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, told PopSci
.Tiny little sponges do the trick
After he retired from the military in April 2012 following a head injury, he joined an Oregon-based firm called RevMedx, which comprised a small group of military vets, engineers and scientists who were trying to develop a new method for stopping battlefield blood loss.
The group has managed a success: Recently, the company asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve their pocket-sized invention. Called "XStat
," its developers say the survival rate on the battlefield would be dramatically improved with its use.
Here's how it works: Medics and other personnel would be able to use the modified syringe to inject specially coated, pellet-sized sponges directly into wounds. Not only could it rapidly stop bleeding
, but it would also spare wounded soldiers additional pain by eliminating the need to repeatedly pack wounds.
Interestingly enough, the invention was born from battlefield experience and some inspiration from another commonly used item: Fix-a-Flat, the foam that you can use to repair tires instantly.
"That's what we pictured as the perfect solution: something you could spray in, it would expand, and bleeding stops," Steinbaugh told PopSci
. "But we found that blood
pressure is so high, blood would wash the foam right out."
So the team substituted small foam pellet/sponges.
As reported by PopSci
:They bought some ordinary sponges from a hardware store and cut them into 1-centimeter circles, a size and shape they chose on a whim but later would discover were ideal for filling wounds. Then, they injected the bits of sponge into an animal injury. "The bleeding stopped," says Steinbaugh. "Our eyes lit up. We knew we were onto something." After seeing early prototypes, the U.S. Army gave the team $5 million to develop a finished product.Seals in seconds, not minutes
Now, as you might imagine, kitchen sponges aren't a good thing to inject into the body. Any material that would be injected would have to meet a couple of criteria: It would need to be sterile, of course, biocompatible with the body and fast-expanding, the research team knew. So they settled on a special sponge made from wood pulp and coated with a special substance called chitosan, which is a blood-clotting, antimicrobial coating that is derived from shrimp shells. And to ensure that no sponges would be left in the body once soldiers made it to surgery, they were tagged with X-shaped markers that ensure that each sponge is visible on an X-ray.
During testing, the team discovered that the little sponges worked very quickly - within 15 seconds - to seal wounds. In that amount of time, they are capable of expanding to fill the entire wound cavity and, as a result, create enough pressure to stop heavy bleeding.
"By the time you even put a bandage over the wound, the bleeding has already stopped," said Steinbaugh.
Check out the concept here