US researchers are working on a device that will quickly stabilise fractures sustained by soldiers on the battlefield.
It will be based on a fast-setting composite that will also incorporate antibacterial agents in an effort to prevent the need for amputations.
Wichita State University’s (WSU’s) National Institute for Aviation Research has been awarded a $1.4m (£863,000) grant from the US Department of Defense to fund the project involving the National Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research.
The impetus for the project comes from the fact that around 71 per cent of combat injuries are sustained at the extremities — and, of these, 51 per cent are open wounds and 19 per cent are fractures.
This is partly explained by the use of modern body armour, which protects vital organs but has resulted in a pattern of battlefield injuries that concentrate trauma to the extremities.
Furthermore, many amputations caused by battlefield wounds occur not because of the original injury but from moving a limb with fractured bones that are sharp and tear blood vessels, nerves and tissue when they are moved.
The importance of proper and immediate orthopaedic care for combatants is, therefore, of great importance.
The project, led by John Tomblin of WSU, will aim to develop a device made of composites that’s easy to carry, will work in hot and cold, and wet and dry, environments, and will harden immediately to eliminate any unintentional movement of a fractured limb.
The aim is to have a successful prototype for the US Army in two years, which could then be adapted for civilian use, in ambulances and in the backpacks of hikers and climbers.