Military officials have estimated that 20% of the deaths suffered in current battle theaters could be prevented with an effective means to stop high-pressure bleeds. To save lives, hemorrhaging must be stopped within seconds, and hemostasis must be maintained for as long as possible. The irregular shape and severe depth of ballistic wounds can make the use of conventional hemostatic agents, including bandages, ineffective. Wound location can make the use of tourniquets and application of pressure impossible. And the high force of arterial bleeding overcomes standard gauze.

For over a decade, the Army has been researching better ways to treat hemorrhaging. A substance created in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center's Reanimation Engineering Shock Center (VCURES) could be the answer. WoundStat™ is a sandy, tan-colored mineral that looks like a combination of flour, sand, and cat litter. It is poured into a hemorrhaging wound. Pressure is applied, and the material forms a seal that stops rapid blood loss. After use, it can be peeled off the injury.

ImageWoundStat is being marketed by Trauma - Cure, a Bethesda, MD-based company formed in 2006. It was born from the discovery of a groundbreaking solution for high-pressure arterial bleeding, particularly in wounds where using a tourniquet is not an option. The technology behind WoundStat emerged from three years of research at VCURES led by Dr. Kevin Ward, Dr. Robert F. Diegelmann, and Dr. Gary L. Bowlin. With the help of VCU's Office of Technology Transfer, the men were introduced to bioscience expert Jack McDonnell, who licensed the technology and established TraumaCure, for which he is chairman and executive vice president.

How it Works

When the Army was looking for wound-care solutions, it specified that the product must meet seven standards:

  1. Stop large-vessel arterial bleeding within 3 minutes, even through a pool of blood, and achieve this goal in 2 minutes.
  2. Be ready to use – no mixing or special preparation.
  3. Be simple to apply by the wounded individual, another soldier, or a medic/EMT with minimal training.
  4. Must be lightweight and durable.
  5. Must be stable and functional at room temperature for at least 2 years, and in extreme ambient temperatures for several weeks.
  6. Must be safe to use, posing no risk of either injury to the tissue or of transmitting human bloodborne pathogens.
  7. Must be affordable.

WoundStat was proven to meet all of those needs. WoundStat works by, first, absorbing the blood into the granules of the product. Second, immediate, simultaneous packing of WoundStat into the wound forms a sticky seal or cast over the bleeding vessels. The cast allows topical pressure applied to the wound to be transmitted across the entire wound surface, thus enhancing the value of pressure in achieving and maintaining hemostasis. Finally, the negative charge of the material accelerates the natural clotting process at the bleeding sites, further enhancing the ability to rapidly obtain long-lasting hemostasis.

The combination of these effects allows WoundStat to be poured through a pool of blood and does not require removing the blood to identify the source of bleeding. Also, should rebleeding occur during movement, WoundStat can simply be remolded into the wound to achieve hemostasis. Once it is molded into the wound, it forms an impervious barrier and is not affected by environmental conditions such as rain.

The mineral-based product is available in a moisture-impermeable, sterile, 5.5-ounce foil pouch that can be easily opened by hands or teeth. It works in seconds, not minutes, which makes a significant difference when operating in high-threat, high-stress environments. It can stop even high-pressure arterial bleeding, which remains a major problem for medics and warfighters.

WoundStat was designed to treat the complex and irregular wounds that are unique to blast injuries. The military estimates that 90 percent of the injuries on the battlefield today are from blasts and not gunshot wounds.

According to Col. Lorne Blackbourne, commander of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, "With WoundStat, the real target is the wound that cannot take a tourniquet," but can take compression, including the groin, neck, underarm, and subclavia. "That represents up to 20 percent of the potentially salvageable wounds we're seeing on the battlefield."

Where it Stands

WoundStat received clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August 2007, and is now being marketed by TraumaCure in military and civilian markets worldwide. It has been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan with no reports of side effects.

The company has begun marketing WoundStat to first responders such as emergency medical technicians, police, and firefighters. Since then, it has been used at least twice in the US – once for a gunshot wound victim, and the other for the victim of a motor vehicle accident. Both incidents resulted in full recovery with no reported adverse events for either patient.

More Information

For more information on WoundStat, click here .

Defense Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2009 issue of Defense Tech Briefs Magazine.

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