New Invention Seals Gunshot Wounds in 15 Seconds
by Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)
A partnership between a former soldier and an Oregon-based medical start-up has resulted in an invention that stops the bleeding of a gunshot wound in 15 seconds. After retiring as an Army Special Operations medic, John Steinbaugh joined RevMedx, a group of veterans, scientists, and engineers who were working on better ways to stop bleeding. On the battlefield, hemorrhaging is the leading cause of death. The gauze used to pack serious injuries just wasn’t good enough: it’s hard to get enough direct pressure to a gunshot wound several inches deep. Tourniquets don’t work on rounded body parts like shoulders or the pelvis. Those problems are what led them to design the XStat.
The XStat is a pocket-sized device not unlike a syringe that injects small, specially coated sponges into wounds. The sponges expand and create enough pressure to rapidly slow the pace of bleeding and allow clotting to occur, all in the span of 15 seconds.
These aren’t just any special sponges, though. When the team was originally creating the XStat, they went to a hardware store and bought ordinary kitchen sponges and cut them into 1-centimeter circles, a size chosen arbitrarily, but when injected into an animal wound, worked perfectly. When the U.S. Army saw this prototype, they gave them $5 million to develop a finished product. Because kitchen sponges are not safe to put in the human body, they set out to make one that was. It needed to be sterile, biocompatible, and fast-expanding. What they came up with is a sponge made from wood pulp and coated with chitosan, an anti-microbial coagulant found in shrimp shells.
If approved by the FDA, the XStat applicators could replace five bulky rolls of gauze in a medic’s kit.
Not only is the XStat a revolutionary way to seal gunshot wounds, RevMedx is also testing ways to help mend large injuries, like those caused by landmines, with expanding gauze made out of the same material as XStat sponges. They also received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last summer to create a version of the XStat to stop postpartum bleeding. As such, this innovative device could be a beneficial tool in both military and civilian life alike.
Steinbaugh says what drives him and his fellow developers is the knowledge of so many soldiers that could have benefitted from a product like this and the motivation to help those hurt in the future.