In pieces: The TourniCath (middle, product packaging) looks like a long, thin plastic tube (bottom). It is comprised of a catheter around which is a tightly wrapped compression balloon covered by a removable sheath. When deployed into a simulated wound track (top), the inflated balloon conforms to the shape of the wound.
The CardioCommand device was developed for areas where conventional tourniquets cannot be applied, such as the groin or shoulder. But even tourniquets have drawbacks because they can’t be left on for more than 30 minutes and can cause secondary tissue damage. The new device was also made for puncture wounds too deep and severe for traditional methods of treatment.
The device is part of a recent effort to develop more effective methods to control bleeding from severe trauma. For example, the U.S. military uses a bandage made by HemCon that has chitosan, a blood-clotting agent, to seal a wound and stop the hemorrhaging. The military also uses QuickClot, a pourable product that uses zeolite-based agents to soak up the blood and adhere to the tissue at and around the wound site. Newer methods still in development include a pouch, built by Aurora Flight Sciences, that swells when put inside an injury, and nanoparticles designed to mimic the clotting capability of blood platelets. The nanoparticle research is led by Erin Lavik, a bioengineer at Case Western University in Cleveland.
But, says Ellis-Behnke, “All of these have drawbacks.” They can swell bigger than the wound, putting pressure on and damaging vital organs, or cause clots that can travel to other areas of the body, he says. Also, most are not biodegradable, he says.
No device is as well directed toward the problem of hemorrhage control as CardioCommand’s device, says Steven Glorsky, a trauma surgeon at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. “This could have huge benefits on the battlefield.”