By Debbie Gregory.
A soldier’s body armor can protect his/her chest and back. But, the enemy has learned to shoot below that mark. Now, U.S. service members deployed to Afghanistan are suffering gunshot wounds from the abdominal area to their legs, and dying in a matter of minutes.
Two former military doctors have found a way to save their lives. Dr. Richard Schwartz and Dr. John Croushorn have developed the inflatable abdominal aortic tourniquet, used to stem the fatality rate in these types of injuries. After witnessing, first-hand, the massive damage that a well-placed bullet was capable of doing, the two physicians felt compelled to come up with a solution.
Previously, a gunshot wound to this area meant soldiers compressed the wound by pressing their knee into the mid-abdominal area to stop the bleeding. However, this also blocked the flow of blood to the legs.
“There is no way to put a tourniquet around it, so soldiers are getting shot in this area, and they are dying within several minutes,” said Schwartz, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the Medical College of Georgia, at Georgia Health Sciences University.
The new, wedge-shaped invention wraps around the abdomen and is inflated with a hand pump. Once blown up, the tourniquet slows blood flow by squeezing the damaged blood vessels.
“By effectively cross-clamping the aorta with the abdominal aortic tourniquet, you are essentially turning the faucet off,” said Croushorn, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. “You are stopping the loss of blood from the broken and damaged blood vessels. You are buying the patient an additional hour of survival time based on blood loss.”
The tourniquet looks like a fanny pack. Croushorn collaborated with Schwartz to create the device after volunteering for the National Guard, and serving in Iraq and areas decimated by Hurricane Katrina. The doctors launched their company, Compression Works, in 2007. Currently, the tourniquets are being used by the U.S. military for special operations in Afghanistan. Large scale production of the device is expected to begin this year.