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Smart tourniquet to save soldiers' lives

By Katherine Garcia | 06 de septiembre de 2012

San Antonio.- It’s natural for the families of soldiers deployed in the military to worry about their loved ones. The United States Army Institute of Surgical Research is hoping to ease some of those fears by creating the Intelligent Tourniquet (iTK).

Research on extremity injuries in 2004 helped the army build a new, more effective kind of tourniquet device.

Scientists at the institute are taking the aid one step further with the electronic smart tourniquet.

The iTK was created by a partnership of the ISR and Athena GTX.

“The new intelligent tourniquet system is retrofitted on top of existing devices that are in use now,” said Joe Salinas, Ph.D., Research Task Area Program Manager of Combat Critical Care Engineering at the ISR.

“It is basically a compact air bladder, sensor suite, and wireless computer control system that fits onto existing tourniquets to provide automated control of tourniquet activation based on patient sensor data or at the direction of a nearby medic through a wireless connection to iTK.”

Research data has proved tourniquets save lives in the battlefield. The device will be able to help incapacitated warriors who would otherwise die without medical attention.

Dr. John F. Kragh, an orthopedic surgeon and the institute’s only full-time tourniquet researcher, agreed of the importance of the next-generation tourniquet.

“Soldiers need this and it would save more lives,” he emphasized.

Salinas said the iTK is still in the early stages of development. He hopes to have a program ready for testing within a few years.

“We feel this will be the future for improving outcomes due to extremity injuries on the battlefield,” Salinas said. “Use of computer technology to drive advances in medical device development will be key to making this system a success.”

The iTK is a tourniquet equipped with a small computer the size of a box of playing cards which can be activated or deactivated by a soldier or from a location far away.

The computer is able to monitor the patient’s vital signs, “so it can actually use the physiology of the patient to help better manage the tourniquet,” Salinas said.

“For example, if the unit notices that the blood pressure is starting to stabilize, then the computer system would tell the control unit to loosen the tourniquet and profuse the limb if it needs to be profused.”

The doctors hope to fit soldier’s uniforms with the iTK and sensors to detect a blast and deploy the device. If the tourniquet isn’t needed, the soldier can deactivate it with the push of a button.

The item would also be a standard feature in armored vehicles, tanks and aircraft.

Salinas said they are working with Ryder Research Center in Miami to make this possible.

“So you will have a seatbelt to protect your body and built-in tourniquets that will automatically deploy to keep you from bleeding if you are injured during a vehicle accident,” Salinas explained.

“As we continue to support the current conflicts and prepare for any future operations, the need to have reliable and effective hemorrhage control devices such as the iTK will be critical in reducing mortality rates,” he added.   

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