When bullets or shrapnel strike a soldier, standard first aid calls for stuffing gauze as deep as five inches into a wound and applying pressure. If bleeding hasn’t stopped after three minutes, the old gauze is pulled out—and new gauze shoved in.
There’s room for improvement. Military doctors estimate that, during the most violent years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, blood loss killed about 90 percent of the wounded that might have otherwise survived with better emergency care. To save more lives, a group of veterans, scientists, and engineers known as RevMedx has created a pocket-sized device called XStat: a faster, more effective way to plug wounds. The polycarbonate syringe slides deep into a wound, such as a bullet track. When a user pushes down on the handle, it deposits dozens of pill-size sponges that expand to stem bleeding. Meanwhile, a substance in the sponges fights infection while clotting blood.
The team is currently seeking FDA approval for XStat, which would allow military medics to add it to their life-saving arsenal. But the battlefield isn’t the only place the device could make an impact. Law enforcement, ambulances, and other emergency responders have shown interest in carrying the device as well. And, with help from Oregon Health and Science University, RevMedx is even developing a version to stop postpartum bleeding.
Lead inventor: Ken Gregory
Development cost to date: $5 million
Market maturity: •••••
UPDATE: On April 3 (after this issue went to press), the FDA announced it had approved XStat as a first-of-its-kind medical dressing.
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Popular Science.