To stop bleeding, apply pressure—with tiny sponges. A group of veterans, scientists, and engineers in Oregon have a developed a device that uses small medical sponges to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds in just 15 seconds.

Hemorrhaging is the leading cause of death on the battlefield. When a soldier is shot, medics use gauze to stop the bleeding, but it's hard to apply direct pressure to a gunshot wound several inches deep. Tourniquets that stop blood from gushing out of arm or leg wounds are no help for pelvis or shoulder injuries, either. But the small sponges of XStat, developed by Oregon company RevMedX, expand to seal a gunshot wound anywhere on the body. Popular Science explains how it works:

The team settled on a sponge made from wood pulp and coated with chitosan, a blood-clotting, antimicrobial substance that comes from shrimp shells. To ensure that no sponges would be left inside the body accidentally, they added X-shaped markers that make each sponge visible on an x-ray image.

The sponges work fast: In just 15 seconds, they expand to fill the entire wound cavity, creating enough pressure to stop heavy bleeding. And because the sponges cling to moist surfaces, they aren't pushed back out of the body by gushing blood.


The sponges are injected into the wound with a syringe, allowing them to reach as close to the ruptured artery as possible. The developers were inspired by Fix-a-Flat foam for tires—but c'mon, it kind of reminds you of a tampon, doesn't it?

RevMedx has received $5 million from the U.S. Army to develop the XStat, and they're currently seeking FDA approval. The U.S. Army has expressed interest, but the technology could just as likely make it out into civilian life. For example, the Oregon Health and Science University won a grant last year to study how XStat might be used to stop postpartum bleeding. Life and death—all from the humble sponge. [RevMedx via Popular Science]

Top image credit: RevMedx