Feb. 22, 2001 Ever since Nimrod first routed his enemies on the field of battle, soldiers have dealt with bleeding and blood loss in the time-honored, traditional way - with gauze, tourniquets, pressure, even red-hot cauterizing irons - all with the hope that the body's natural clot-forming ability would take charge and stem the flow of blood. But even today, the percentage of battlefield deaths due to uncontrollable blood loss remains at 50 percent - a statistic that has not changed since the Civil War. Although there has been a reduction in mortality for those injured persons reaching full medical care, many casualties die before ever arriving at a triage unit.
This is about to change. Last December the Food and Drug Administration issued a market clearance for a new trauma dressing made from marine micro-algae designed to stop hemorrhaging by inducing blood clot formation in seconds. Called the "RDH Bandage" (Rapid Deployment Hemostat), it stops bleeding by causing red blood cells to form a plug as they come into contact with the algal compound. The formation of the red blood cell plug leads to a high local concentration of platelets and clotting factors, resulting in the formation of a normal blood clot. The RDH Bandage is the result of a three-year effort between the Office of Naval Research and Marine Polymer Technologies (MPT), a Massachusetts Company.
In 1992, MPT discovered a compound isolated from a marine micro-algae that proved to be very effective in controlling hemorrhage. The Company further developed the marine micro-algae technology into commercial products with FDA and CE Mark (European Union, U.S. and Canada) approvals for the treatment of hemorrhage in the hospital setting. The major challenge of the ONR/MPT project centered on the transition of the technology from the controlled clinical settings into uncontrolled traumatic situations encountered on the battlefield.
During the seven major military operations since the Korean War, open wounds to the extremities have been the most prevalent battlefield injury. Medical treatment of in the battlefield requires special trauma management, and peacetime surgical guidelines are sometimes impossible. The RDH Bandage is formulated to withstand desert conditions or frigid temperatures, and is lightweight and easy to carry. The RDH Bandage will become a regular part of battlefield emergency care. In addition to its major contribution in military medicine, the RDH Bandage is expected to play a critical role in the civilian trauma setting. In the U.S. each year, around 50,000 people bleed to death due to gunshot wounds, accidents, or other causes. This ONR- supported effort may contribute to the saving of a substantial number of these lives.
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