U.S. Special Operations testing plasma knife in the field

The U.S. Special Operations Command is field-testing a plasma knife to help medics in the field save more soldiers' lives.

The U.S. Special Operations Command is field-testing a plasma knife to help medics in the field save more soldiers' lives.

The plasma knife is intended to be used as a surgical tool that's safer but as effective as a traditional steel scalpel. The knife's blade is made of heated, ionized gas that can both incise and cauterize wounded flesh, protecting against infection and stopping bleeding.

That's an important advancement for troops that find themselves in remote areas without medical help in the area.

Wired explains:

If you survive the massive tissue damage caused by a bullet or an improvised bomb, then the biggest immediate risk is bleeding to death. The Plasma Knife is a tool to stop bleeding.

Bleeding is stopped by effectively melting flesh into an impermeable layer. The tissue in question is necrotic, or dead, and is subject to controlled energy so as not to simply burn away.

The "plasma" part of the knife penetrates the outer layer of dead tissue, which is porous, without damaging it. Better still, it's sterile, even in the field.

The knife being tested is a low-power and "wearable," according to an official document, hinting that it requires a separate power pack.

A patent was filed in 2001 by Nikolaj Suslov for a plasma knife to be used in medical situations.

While offensive weaponry gets all the headlines, advancements in field medicine are a significant concern for the military -- another such tool mentioned by the U.S. SOCOM report is "recombinant hemostatic agents" for controlling bleeding in "penetrating brain injury," such as from a bullet or shrapnel.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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