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DARPA seeks ultrasonic auto-scab tourniquets

'Deep Bleeder' sonar medicuff deal inked

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

US researchers intend to develop an automated ultrasonic cuff which could be fitted to the arms or legs of wounded troops to stop blood loss and so save the limb - or indeed the whole soldier.

The Engineer reports that Siemens Healthcare has received a contract under which it will partner with Texas A & M and the University of Washington to produce the "Deep Bleeder Acoustic Coagulation" (DBAC) cuff.

The idea is that an untrained user will be able to attach the DBAC to the arm or leg of a colleague which has suffered a penetrating wound. The machine will use ultrasound scanning to pinpoint internal bleeding, before focusing "high-power energy" on the bleed sites. This will cause the blood to coagulate, forming instant scabs and so preventing further blood loss.

The cuff is intended to lower chances of limbs being lost to severe battlefield trauma, which is an increasingly common situation as improved combat medicine saves more and more soldiers who would previously have died - but often can't preserve their limbs. The DBAC, if it works as intended, should also prevent deaths from haemorrhagic shock.

However, this is by no means proven or even probably-successful technology. That much at least is clear from the source of the military funding. The money for the Siemens deal comes from DARPA, the famous Pentagon research bureau which, when scrumping apples from the tree of knowledge, ignores the low-hanging fruit in favour of the higher-up pomaceous treat which often turns out to be beyond its reach.

So US troops and their allies fighting hard overseas may not be stashing a DBAC cuff in their webbing along with the first field dressing in 18 months, as DARPA hopes. But at least in this case, the kit would be genuinely useful to them if it works. ®

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