Student-designed device to fight battlefield hypothermia


May 25, 2011

Biomedical engineering students have invented a blood-warming device, intended to reduce the number of fatalities caused by blood loss-induced hypothermia on the battlefield (Photo: isafmedia)

Biomedical engineering students have invented a blood-warming device, intended to reduce the number of fatalities caused by blood loss-induced hypothermia on the battlefield (Photo: isafmedia)

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For U.S. troops, the most common type of battlefield fatality involves blood loss due to trauma. When a soldier does experience blood loss, their chance of survival drops by 22.5 percent once hypothermia sets in. Needless to say, if that reaction can be minimized or delayed, then less fatalities should occur. A team of biomedical engineering students from New Jersey's Stevens Institute of Technology is working towards that goal, by developing a blood-warming system device known as Heat Wave.

Currently, hypothermic soldiers are treated using IV drips and wool blankets. According to the Stevens team, it can take up to 16 hours to raise a patient's core temperature to a stable level using such an approach. If the lab tests are any indication, Heat Wave should be able to do the same thing within just four hours. This would not only increase the survival rate of wounded soldiers, but would also free medics up to tend to other patients.

The device is a portable heater/humidifier, designed to pump warm, moist air through an oxygen mask and into the patient's lungs. As the entire body's blood volume passes through the lungs, the heat from that air is transferred through the lung tissue and into the blood.

The students tested their proof-of-concept prototype using an insulated container that represented the lungs, which was connected via a water-filled tube to another container, that was a stand-in for the cardiovascular system. As the warm air was pumped into the first container, sensors measured the heat transfer that took place between it and the second container.

Heat Wave would be used in conjunction with existing treatments. The students are developing it with assistance from the U.S. Army, and hope to pass the idea along to another party, that can turn it into a field-deployable product.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Not new. I recall seeing (on TV) a similar device being used in Canada some years ago, for civilian use.


hey Wombat you\'re right but as it\'s not a billable item American Monetary Response (aka AMR) didn\'t accept it - private ambulance bases everything on ROI return on investment - and as they\'re usually the only game in town they can pretty much dictate what is & isn\'t utilized in the field... (worked both private & municipal systems so I have seen both sides of the coin)

Don Metzger
allways wanted to see them try rewarming with a spritz of helium mixed into the warmed air stream

helium was tried and rejected for deep (S.C.U.B.A.) diving due to its heat stealing/gross cooling effect !

at right mix, and reheating/recirculating it seems intuitive that hypothermia could be prevented/reversed !

Allen Lumley

Simple and perhaps effective. Nice.

Samantha Renault

If the current stetcher can be upgraded it too can act as a medic

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