Who knows where inspiration will strike? Shopping for cookware usually inspires a batch of cookies or using a innovative utensil on a new dinner recipe, not a revolution in patching up gunshot wounds. But a co-founder of RevMedx, a medical technology company, admits their innovative tool for treating gunshot and shrapnel wounds – XStat – was cooked up as a result of a trip to Williams-Sonoma.
RevMedx was already working on treatments for battlefield wounds when Dr. Ken Gregory went shopping for housewares. His trip changed the direction of their research and the subsequent invention – XStat – recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The medical technology company has been asked by the U.S. military to work on a way to stop gunshot and shrapnel wounds from causing personnel to bleed out on the battlefield before they can be evacuated and receive adequate care. They wanted something field medics could use to, literally, plug holes in people. The original concept was to develop a medical form of Fix-a-Flat, the type of foam used to plug up holes in tires.
However, the shopping trip provided new inspiration and a different direction to pursue. At Williams-Sonoma, Gregory discovered a type of kitchen sponge that was compressed tight when dry. However, once it is placed under water, it expands into a normal looking kitchen sponge. “That was kind of a light bulb moment,” according to Andrew Barofsky, the CEO of RevMedx.
After various iterations, the sponge concept evolved into XStat, which consists of little sponge-like discs. The mini compressed sponges, which have been treated with an anti-hemorrhagic substance, are injected into an open wound using a syringe. Once they meet up with blood and body fluids, the sponges expand to 10 times their size in seconds. This has two positive effects – it plugs the wound and provides compression to stop the bleeding.
There is considerable belief that the XStat could be a revolutionary battlefield tool, where bleeding out is a major issue, and save countless lives and limbs. In battle, the standard method of plugging wounds, which involves packing them with gauze or tampons and then applying pressure, takes too long, according to John Steinbaugh, who was a Special Forces medic and is now RevMedx’s director of strategic development. Three to five minutes can be the difference in the field between life and death, he noted. With the XStat, “you put it in and the bleeding instantly stops,” Steinbaugh added.
Since XStat received FDA approval, RevMedx working to get it into the hands of military medics. Barofsky expects to provide a limited supply to the U.S. military this year. They eventually hope to expand their market beyond way zone use to urban battlefields. They would like to see XStat in the hands of paramedics and law enforcement officers in the future.
While it has been approved for use, there is one detail still being worked out with XStat: how to remove the sponge pellets from the injured later. Right now, the sponges are pulled out with forceps. RevMedx is working on future versions that would either eventually dissolve in the body or have a string attached so they could be extracted like a string of beads. In the interim, there are little blue radiopaque threads sewn in the sponges that allow any remaining in a person to be identified with an X-ray and then removed.
After 25 years of military duty, Steinbaugh believes the XStat will literally be a life saver. “The faster you can stop the bleeding,” he pointed out, “the higher the probability you can save a guy’s life.”
By Dyanne Weiss