Device being tested at UNTHSC could save lives of trauma victims

December 10, 2013

An easy-to-use device that could keep trauma victims alive until they reach definitive medical care is being tested by UNT Health Science Center researchers.

The impedance threshold device, or ITD, is designed to improve blood flow to the brain and other vital organs following a traumatic injury.

Although the device is being tested as part of a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for applications on the battlefield, it has obvious civilian uses as well.

The device works by decreasing pressure in the chest with each breath, thus bringing more blood back to the heart so it can then pump blood to vital organs, said Caroline Rickards, PhD, Assistant Professor of Integrative Physiology.

“We are exploring whether breathing on the ITD improves brain blood flow and oxygenation, which may improve survival from bleeding injuries,” Dr. Rickards said. “Also, some patients have lost so much blood that their veins collapse, and it’s difficult to get an IV line to deliver fluids and medicine.

“This device could potentially be used to open a line, providing access for essential interventions and helping the patient alive long enough to get to a hospital.”

To stimulate extreme blood loss, researchers are using a technique called “lower body negative pressure.” Volunteers lie inside a chamber sealed from the waist down.

“A vacuum effectively sucks blood into the lower body, which reduces the volume of blood returning to the heart and the brain,” Dr. Rickards said. “Volunteers are taken to the point just before fainting, indicating blood flow from the brain is reduced.”

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