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DARPA Miracle Foam Could Save Lives on the Battlefield

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The foam-based product developed by Arsenal Medical for DARPA can be injected into a wounded servicemember on the battlefield to slow blood loss until the patient can be transported to an appropriate medical facility. The foam-based product developed by Arsenal Medical for DARPA can be injected into a wounded servicemember on the battlefield to slow blood loss until the patient can be transported to an appropriate medical facility. DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has developed an injectable foam that shows promise in reducing death from internal bleeding. When a life threatening injury is sustained on the battlefield, the clock starts ticking on what is known as the “Golden Hour”—the critical 60 minute window during which soldiers are moved to advanced-treatment facilities. Injuries that cause internal bleeding (such as those from shrapnel or a bomb blast) are difficult to treat in the field as they can’t be compressed. That’s where DARPA’s new injectable foam comes in.

Two separate liquid compounds are injected in the body. When the two liquids mix, they react to form a foam coagulant that expands within the abdominal cavity—compressing the wound without sticking to vital organs. In tests, the compression was shown to reduce blood loss by six-fold and increase the three hour survival rate to 72 percent, up from just eight percent. The foam effectively extends the “golden hour.”

“According to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, internal hemorrhage is the leading cause of potentially survivable deaths on the battlefield, so the Wound Stasis effort should ultimately translate into an increased rate of survival among warfighters,” said DARPA program manager Brian Holloway. “If testing bears out, the foam technology could affect up to 50 percent of potentially survivable battlefield wounds.”

The foam was developed by Arsenal Medical as part of DARPA’s Wound Stasis System program, an effort the agency launched in 2010 to develop technology that could be administered on the battlefield and reduce treatable battlefield deaths. DARPA recently awarded a $15.5 million Phase II contract to Arsenal Medical to continue research and development of the technique.

Check out the animation below of what the foam looks like in action:

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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