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DARPA foam fights internal bleeding

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December 11, 2012

Animation still of the DARPA foam being injected

Animation still of the DARPA foam being injected

Image Gallery (2 images)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing a foam that can be injected into the body cavities of battlefield wounded to protect them from internal abdominal bleeding. The agency hopes that when perfected, the foam will help the wounded to survive the critical minutes needed to transport them to proper surgical facilities for treatment.

Developed by Arsenal Medical, Inc. as part of DARPA’s Wound Stasis program, the product is a polyurethane polymer foam designed to control internal hemorrhaging for at least an hour and is designed to be easy for doctors and surgeons to remove.

The “Golden Hour” is the 60 minutes when initial treatment of battlefield casualties means the probable difference between life and death. Abdominal injuries are particularly dangerous during this time because they can’t be treated with compression pads or tourniquets. This means that internal bleeding is a real threat to survival before proper facilities can be reached.

The polymer foam is intended to be injected into the abdominal cavity by a field medic in two liquid phases – a polyol phase and an isocyanate phase. When the liquids combine, they react and expand to 30 times their original volume – a bit like foam thermal insulation. As the foam expands, it fills the intact abdominal cavity and hardens into a dressing that molds itself to the internal organs and resists blood loss. Removing the foam is also remarkably easy. In tests, it showed little signs of sticking to tissues and surgeons were able to remove it in a solid block in less than a minute.

This image shows how the solidified foam molds itself to abdominal organs

No human tests have been conducted, but work has been done with test swine injuries. Preclinical data presented by project members at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma in Kauai, Hawaii showed that the foam raised survival rates for liver injuries after three hours from 8 to 72 percent, while reducing blood loss six fold.

Arsenal Medical is currently working on Phase II of the project under a US$15.5 million contract from DARPA. Meanwhile, the agency is hoping for clinical trials.

“If testing bears out, the foam technology could affect up to 50 percent of potentially survivable battlefield wounds," says DARPA program manager Brian Holloway. "We look forward to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on future regulatory submission of this device, and with our partners, the Army Institute of Surgical Research and Special Operations Command, on getting this technology to where it’s desperately needed on the front lines.”

The animation below shows the foam in action.

Source: DARPA

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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4 Comments

Clever idea. I wonder, in a pinch could you use the stuff they sell at big box stores and inject a little of it right into the wound?

JAT
12th December, 2012 @ 08:50 am PST

Kind of like the stuff they use in the Halo book series.

I wonder if it would be possible to lace it with painkillers, anticoagulants, stem cells, etc...

Racqia Dvorak
12th December, 2012 @ 02:52 pm PST

"work has been done with test swine injuries."

so how do they do these tests? by shooting a pig in the gut?

mikewax
12th December, 2012 @ 04:57 pm PST

This is a bold attempt to delay an unstoppable and deadly process. The amount of mixture to be instilled would have to depend on the size of the patient's abdomen. To little, and pressure will be inadequate to stop the bleeding. Too much, and the patient might experience difficulty in breathing. In the latter case, sufficient vital capacity would likely remain for adequate oxygenation after intubation, but areas of lung that do not inflate might become vulnerable to pneumonia. Never mind, pneumonia is treatable. Exsanguination is not.

ralph.dratman
13th December, 2012 @ 12:08 pm PST
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