Israeli and American scientists have developed a way to stop bleeding with the help of electric currents.
The method consists of applying short electric pulses via an electrode, and is intended to control severe bleeding, such as the kind suffered by soldiers wounded in the battlefield.
“Non-compressible hemorrhage is the most common preventable cause of death on the battlefield and in civilian traumatic injuries,” says Dr. Yossi Mandel, who headed the research team.
Mandel, a fellow in the Department of Ophthalmology and the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory of Stanford University, California, is former head of the Israel Defense Force’s Medical Corps Research and Foreign Affairs directorate. The research was carried out together with Prof. Daniel Palanker, a former Israeli now with Stanford’s ophthalmology department.
The method, which the IDF Medical Corps started developing in 2011, can arrest hemorrhaging that cannot be stopped effectively with a tourniquet or coagulant powders. Such bleeding occurs especially from the stomach and junction areas like the neck, armpit and groin.
The method was tested at Stanford on rats, which were exposed to short electric pulses after deep cuts were made in their arteries. The pulses rapidly constricted the rats’ blood vessels and stopped the bleeding.
Rats whose femoral artery was cut and left untreated died within minutes, Mandel says in an article recently published in the periodical Scientific Reports. Applying the electric current reduced the bleeding rate and achieved a nearly complete hemorrhage arrest within a few seconds.
“The average blood loss from the femoral artery measured during 30 seconds of treatment and 30 seconds after that was about seven times less than that of a non-treated control,” he writes.
“Strong decrease in blood loss was also observed in the severed mesenteric arteries treated with [short] pulses,” he writes. “We couldn’t find reports of a similarly profound pharmacological vasoconstriction − down to almost complete obstruction. This suggests that electrical pulses can induce much stronger contraction of the smooth muscles than pharmacological agents.
“In conclusion,” Mandel writes, “electrical stimulation of vasculature by microsecond pulses can be used to control blood perfusion and reduce hemorrhage in non-compressible wounds. Temporary decrease in blood perfusion can be achieved in seconds using the reversible vasoconstriction regime, with vessels dilating back to their original size within minutes after termination of stimulation. This modality could be used for non-damaging hemorrhage control in surgery and during trauma care.”