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Expandable sponges could seal gunshot wounds like a flat tire

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What if you could dress a wound the way you fix a tire? That's the idea behind Xstat Dressing, an in-development technology that would allow medics to easily dress gunshots or other deep wounds on the battlefield — and it was inspired by the foam used to fix flat tires. "That's what we pictured as the perfect solution: something you could spray in, it would expand, and bleeding stops," former medic and RevMedx co-founder John Steinbaugh told Popular Science. "But we found that blood pressure is so high, blood would wash the foam right out."

So instead of foam, Xstat uses small, expandable sponges. The sponges — which are standard medical sponges that have been compressed and coated with a hemostatic agent called chitosan — take just 15 seconds to expand once they're in the wound. They help with clotting and slowing blood flow, while providing enough pressure that no manual pressure is needed. Each sponge is also marked so that it can be seen by an X-ray and removed from the body, though RevMedx is also hoping to create a biodegradable version as well.

"I've treated lots of guys who would have benefitted from this product."

According to the company, when tested on swine the sponges provided a "significant improvement" in survival an hour after the injury. It's a big improvement when compared to current battlefield dressing techniques, which involve packing a wound with gauze to stop bleeding. The Xstat is being developed in both 30 millimeter and 12 millimeter versions so medics can tackle both large and small wounds.

It's not an entirely new concept, as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has previously experimented with foams for treating similar injuries. Even the creator or super glue, Dr. Harry Coover, developed a spray to help seal battlefield wounds so soldiers could be transported to a hospital during the Vietnam War.

While it's still labelled as an investigational device, RevMedx has received $5 million from the American military to bring the Xstat concept to the battlefield. "I've treated lots of guys who would have benefitted from this product," says Steinbaugh.