Army and American Red Cross researchers say they have developed a bandage that can stop severe bleeding within seconds, potentially saving thousands of lives on battlefields, highways and city streets.
The experimental bandage and a related foam and spray contain freeze-dried clotting agents in concentrations 50 to 100 times greater than in human blood, said William Drohan, senior director of plasma research at the Red Cross' Jerome H. Holland Laboratory in Rockville, Md.
"This is really the first significant advance in emergency treatment to stem blood loss in about 3,000 years," Drohan said.
The products have stopped arterial bleeding in animals within 15 to 60 seconds, reducing blood loss by 50% to 85%, the scientists said recently.
The Army has spent about $3 million subsidizing the research because bleeding is the most common cause of battlefield deaths, said Col. John Hess, commander of the blood research detachment at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Rockville and inventor of the process that produced the bandage.
Drohan said he expects to begin clinical trials within a year at an Army hospital in Texas, where the bandage will be applied to the gushing wounds from prostate removal surgery.
The foam is intended for bullet wounds and other punctures that bleed from deep inside the body, Drohan said, while the clotting spray is for seeping wounds such as severe burns and torn muscle.
Such products could prove very useful in emergency medicine and trauma care, said Dr. LaMont Smith, an attending physician in the emergency department of the University of Maryland Medical System in Baltimore.
"That's the name of the game, stopping the bleeding," he said. "It sounds pretty exciting."
The products use a process developed at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., that combines two key clotting agents--a protein called fibrinogen and an enzyme, thrombin--derived from blood plasma. In contact with blood, they instantly form a sticky lattice called fibrin that adheres to live tissue and eventually becomes a scab.
Another fibrin product called Tisseel, made by Baxter Healthcare Corp., was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. Tisseel's preparation can take up to 40 minutes, though, limiting its effectiveness in emergencies.
The Red Cross' patented fibrin products are ready to use, Drohan said. The 4-by-4-inch bandage has a stiff, quarter-inch layer of clotting material that dissolves and coagulates when pressed into a wound.
"If you can see blood, put it on. As soon as blood hits it, it turns into a gel" that begins setting within seconds, he said.
The fragile bandage could be carried by soldiers and emergency medical technicians in a protective plastic package, he said.
Except for Tisseel, which is used during surgeries, the only way to stop bleeding is by applying pressure to the wound, which works only sometimes, Drohan said.
He wouldn't discuss the possible price of the bandage but said it would become cheaper if genetically engineered animals were used to manufacture the components by excreting them in their milk. Pigs are already doing so in a project at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., Drohan said.