This innovative, wound-filling sponge just saved its first soldier

A device designed to stanch bleeding from combat wounds — when traditional methods are too slow or insufficient — was successful in its first documented use in the field, according to a press release by its creator, RevMedx. The recent invention, XSTAT, was used on a coalition soldier who was wounded by a gunshot to the left thigh.

XSTAT works by pumping tiny sponges into a wound via syringe. The sponges expand to 15 times their size when they come in contact with blood. XSTAT is designed to be effective for wound locations that are harder to treat, such as the groin area.

The patient’s bleeding was initially stopped by a tourniquet, according to a report by the military. But there was residual bleeding during a nearly seven-hour operation by a U.S. military forward surgical team. “Eventually, the FST team opted to use XSTAT and applied a single XSTAT device…resulting in nearly immediate hemostasis.”

The innovative device was profiled by the NewsHour in 2014. RevMedx’s John Steinbaugh, a former Special Forces medic who served for more than 20 years in the Army, explained its impetus.

“Back in 2006-2007, at the height of the [Iraq] war, medics were getting fed up with the standard gauze….the way the medics described the device they wanted was fix-a-flat,” as in a flat tire, Steinbaugh said to the NewsHour. “You inject the fix-a-flat into your tire, it finds the escaping air, it plugs it, and done.”

Steinbaugh and his colleagues — a team of experts from the military and private sector — considered other ideas before pursuing the one that succeeded. “We literally went to Williams-Sonoma, brought compressed sponges out of a kitchen store, loaded them in homemade syringes that we made, and put them in a model, and they expanded and worked,” Steinbaugh said.

Aided by a a $5 million grant from the U.S. Army, they spent three years developing the idea. XSTAT received FDA approval in 2014.

Responding to its success in helping its first documented patient, Andrew Barofsky, president and CEO of RevMedx, said he hoped for “further adoption of XSTAT as a standard of care for severe hemorrhage in pre-hospital settings.”

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