News 12 This Morning / Friday, Jan. 13, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When every minute counts, a new piece of equipment created by a doctor at Georgia Health Sciences University could be the device soldiers turn to on the battlefield.
It can take mere minutes for a soldier to bleed to death if they are hit.
Dr. Richard Schwartz, GHSU's Chairman of emergency medicine explained,"The injuries we are seeing now are in areas where body armor does not cover."
Schwartz's own wartime experience in the Army and working with special operations allowed him to think outside of the box and develop a prototype to stop fatal bleeding.
"The most difficult one to control is really at the junction between the legs and the body," he said. "Where you have very large blood vessels."
That large blood vessel is the aorta which runs parallel to your spine. You can't put direct pressure on it to stop the bleeding so Schwartz helped design the abdominal aortic tourniquet. It may look like a fanny pack, but it's designed to be small and portable. When a soldier puts it on in the battlefield, it can stop the bleeding.
"It's a wedge shape that compresses the abdomen," Schwartz said. "What it does, it compresses the large blood vessel that goes to lower extremities to stop blood flow."
It was a simple concept that took five years in the making from conception to FDA approval.
"Want to make sure its safe to do. We did a number of animal studies," Schwartz added.
Then it was tried on humans to see if the pouch could provide enough pressure to block blood in the aorta from the outside.
"Like any tourniquet you put on it's an uncomfortable device. Every subject came away and said it's very uncomfortable but beats bleeding to death," Dr. Schwartz said.
The weapon against lethal war injuries provides extra time that could save a life and Schwartz said he's not done experimenting.
"Always working on new ideas and each time we develop something new, five new ideas come up," he said.
There are several military units that have already ordered the product. Schwartz expects it to cost somewhere around $300 to $500. It should take two months until manufacturers start producing them.