The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved a pocket-sized invention that has been used for about a year and a half on the battlefield, but now may one day save your life at home.
The invention, called XStat, is a syringe-like device that can plug a life-threatening wound — think a deep wound, such as a gunshot or stabbing lesion — by injecting it with a collection of tiny, super-absorbent sponges. It's especially handy for wounds that can't be wrapped in a tourniquet, such as a gash to the groin or armpit.
The sponges expand inside the cavity, creating pressure that can block bleeding and life-threatening hemorrhage in 20 seconds or less. This incredible speed is a remarkable boon, which could mean the difference between life and death.
"By the time you even put a bandage over the wound, the bleeding has already stopped," former US Army Special Operations medic John Steinbaugh told Popular Science, who first covered XStat.
The device is made by Oregon-based medical device company RevMedx, and was initially approved for military use — to plug severe wounds on the battlefield — in April 2014. The invention was a godsend for soldiers, whose number one cause of death is hemorrhage, or bleeding to death.
The way it works is simple. Each syringe contains about 92 compressed sponges coated with absorbent and antimicrobial materials. The sponges are made from wood pulp, a plant-based material that won't dissolve into the body, and are coated with chitosan, a material that promotes blood-clotting and is resistant to bacterial infection.
The tiny sponges are also pre-loaded with markers that show up on an X-ray, allowing easy removal if one gets stuck in the body.
Once injected into the wound, they swell and pack the entire wound, clinging to the moisture instead of being pushed out. They're good for up to four hours, buying enough time to transport the patient to a hospital and get them into surgery.
Each applicator has enough sponges to absorb a pint of blood, and up to three applicators can be used on a patient.
Now that XStat is approved for use in the general population, it could be a game-changer for life-threatening situations at home. Up to 40% of civilian deaths from a severe trauma are caused by bleeding to death. And of those deaths, between 33% and 56% happen before a patient even gets to a hospital, the FDA reports.
"When a product is developed for use in the battlefield, it is generally intended to work in a worst-case scenario where advanced care might not be immediately available," William Maisel, director of the FDA's Office of Device Evaluation said in a press release. "It is exciting to see this technology transition to help civilian first responders control some severe, life-threatening bleeding while on the trauma scene."