Foam to fill and seal wounds?

I was astonished to read about a new foam to treat internal abdominal injuries that’s being developed under a DARPA initiative.  The agency reports:

The Department of Defense’s medical system aspires to a standard known as the “Golden Hour” that dictates that troops wounded on the battlefield are moved to advanced-level treatment facilities within the first 60 minutes of being wounded. In advance of transport, initial battlefield medical care administered by first responders is often critical to injured servicemembers’ survival. In the case of internal abdominal injuries and resulting internal hemorrhaging, however, there is currently little that can be done to stanch bleeding before the patients reach necessary treatment facilities; internal wounds cannot be compressed the same way external wounds can, and tourniquets or hemostatic dressings are unsuitable because of the need to visualize the injury. The resulting blood loss often leads to death from what would otherwise be potentially survivable wounds.

DARPA launched its Wound Stasis System program in 2010 in the hopes of finding a technological solution that could mitigate damage from internal hemorrhaging. The program sought to identify a biological mechanism that could discriminate between wounded and healthy tissue, and bind to the wounded tissue. As the program evolved, an even better solution emerged: Wound Stasis performer Arsenal Medical, Inc. developed a foam-based product that can control hemorrhaging in a patient’s intact abdominal cavity for at least one hour, based on swine injury model data. The foam is designed to be administered on the battlefield by a combat medic, and is easily removable by doctors during surgical intervention at an appropriate facility, as demonstrated in testing.

During testing, minimally invasive application of the product reduced blood loss six-fold and increased the rate of survival at three hours post-injury to 72 percent from the eight percent observed in controls.

. . .

The foam is actually a polyurethane polymer that forms inside a patient’s body upon injection of two liquid phases, a polyol phase and an isocyanate phase, into the abdominal cavity. As the liquids mix, two reactions are triggered. First, the mixed liquid expands to approximately 30 times its original volume while conforming to the surfaces of injured tissue. Second, the liquid transforms into solid foam capable of providing resistance to intra-abdominal blood loss. The foam can expand through pooled and clotted blood and despite the significant hydrostatic force of an active hemorrhage.

In tests, removal of the foam took less than one minute following incision by a surgeon. The foam was removed by hand in a single block, with only minimal amounts remaining in the abdominal cavity, and with no significant adherence of tissue to the foam.

There’s more at the link.

That’s just flat-out amazing to me!  I’ve suffered such an abdominal injury myself, and I’m here to tell you, it’s no fun at all – particularly as the bloating (from internal bleeding) increases, the pain spikes, and the world begins to take on that fuzzy out-of-focus feeling that makes you ask (as you black out) whether you’ll live to see it in focus again . . .  Frankly, if this hadn’t been a DARPA news release, I’d have been suspicious of it – but if they say they’ve already made so much progress, I’ll take their word for it.

I suspect this stuff is going to save a whole lot of lives.  Kudos to those who invented and developed it – and personal thanks from this formerly ‘wounded warrior’.  I wish it had been around when I needed it!



  1. DARPA has been responsible for a good many major advances in trauma care.

    Now if their research on a shelf-stable blood substitute bears fruit, that would be something…

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