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In 20 years as an Army Special Forces medic, John Steinbaugh saw a lot of blood. Now that he's retired from the military, he's still trying to stop the bleeding of America's wounded service members.
Steinbaugh is working for RevMedx, an Oregon-based company that, thanks in part to a $5 million federal research grant, has come up with a novel approach to stemming the flow of blood from open wounds.
It's called XStat, and is is basically a polycarbonate syringe loaded up with pill-sized sponges that, when injected directly into a wound, expand to soak up blood and put pressure on spewing arteries. The tiny sponges are dosed with an infection-fighting chemical.
“You don’t have to put your hands on it, put direct pressure on it,” said Steinbaugh, who during more than 10 tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia received three Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts. “You insert it and it’s just 'fire and forget.' You put it in and you’re done. Move on to treat another wound.”
Steinbaugh knows from grim experience that being able to treat wounds quickly can be a matter of life and death. In Iraq, he frequently treated victims of roadside bombings that resulted in difficult-to-treat injuries caused by shrapnel. Standard gauze wrap was of little use.
“The more blood they lose, they go into shock, it’s harder to bring that guy back,” he said. “So if you can quickly stop the bleeding, keep an extra half liter of blood inside the body, on the tail end of that he’s going to have a much better outcome.”
Military officials estimate that during the most deadly years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, blood loss killed about 90 percent of those who were wounded that might have survived with better emergency care.
In 2009, the Army partnered with RevMedx to develop a better way, and XStat was the result. And while it is made for the battlefield, there’s interest among civilian first responders.
“There could be versions down the road that even civilians could use to save as many lives as possible,” says RevMedx founder Andrew Barofsky, “We think it’s a real paradigm shift in how to stop bleeding out there in a pre-hospital setting.”
The military is expected to receive its first shipment of XStats by the end of 2014.