For soldiers, inflatable tourniquet stops bleeding in seconds

Gunshots to the pelvis can cause soldiers to bleed out in minutes, and conventional tourniquets can't tighten enough around the abdomen. The new device is being tried by combat medics.


Gunshot wounds in the pelvis and upper legs are particularly common because body armor doesn't always cover the region.

Yet conventional tourniquets don't work around the abdomen since it's impossible to tie them tight enough to cut off blood flow from the aorta. Soldiers with 'junctional hemorrhages' could bleed to death within minutes - it's one of the most common causes of preventable death on the battlefield.

To solve this problem, Operation Desert Storm army medic Richard Schwartz, now the chairman of the emergency medicine department at Georgia Health Sciences University, teamed up with former army surgeon John Croushorn to create an inflatable abdominal aortic tourniquet (pictured). Popular Science reports.

  1. Their first design was a bladder shaped like a wedge, attached to a strap that could be tightened around the abdomen at the belly button.
  2. When the bladder is inflated with a hand pump, the wedge displaces the bowel and, eventually, compresses the aorta against the spine and the back of the abdominal wall.
  3. Blood flow to the lower body stops.
  4. To make the device stable enough to use during combat (since jostling motions caused the tourniquet to shift), they added a base plate to hold the bladder in place.
  5. They also added a windlass - a lever at the front that tightens the tourniquet as it's twisted, and then locks.

The newest version was first tested on pigs, then people. Last fall, they applied for US Food and Drug Administration approval and were accepted within 8 days.


The cost is $150,000.

The Army ordered 60 of these tourniquets for combat medics; the first batch was delivered to troops in May. The duo plans to market the device for nonmilitary use and already have inquiries from emergency medical service and law enforcement agencies.

The device is one of 10 winners of the 2012 PopSci Invention Awards.

[Via PopSci]

Images via GHSU and PopSci

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