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The immediate task for first responders is changing.
The policy used to be this: Secure the scene in order to allow medical attention to come in and be administered. Now their priority, while curtailing the emergency taking place, is to immediately attend to bleeding victims above all else.
With this change in procedures, trauma specialist and retired Canadian forces surgeon Dennis Filips has developed a new tool.
It looks like a futuristic hair clip and is about the size of a child’s hand-held toy. It’s innocent-looking enough, save for the eight needles protruding from the clamp.
The iTClamp is specially designed to close a wound in a way that’s so simple, anyone can do it, Dr. Filips explained.
Instead of applying a complicated tourniquet with the right amount of pressure – let alone performing the long and complicated process of stitching a profusely bleeding wound – the clamp can be placed simply over the injury and squeezed together. This closes the wound. It takes about three seconds to apply.
“You can get that person back to definite care much more quickly and in a much better state. They won’t have lost as much blood, which means that they’re not going to get massive transfusions. It’ll be a big savings to the health-care system, as well as improving death from trauma,” said Dr. Filips, who splits his time between Edmonton and Ottawa.
“And bleeding to death in trauma is the leading cause of preventable death.”
Speed is obviously essential in an emergency.
“Even an experienced trauma surgeon trying to suture a wound closed would take several minutes in ideal circumstances with proper lighting. [The clamp] takes that whole sequence of events and puts it in the hands of a layperson, who can now accomplish the same thing in three seconds,” explained Dr. Filips, who served for 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, including three deployments to Afghanistan, before helping to found Innovative Trauma Care Inc.
He got the idea for the devices, which are disposable and cost around $85 each, when training medics and teaching them tricks to stop bleeding in the field. “There are lots of things built into the device. The locks are specially designed to withstand high arterial pressures, but there are also safety mechanisms that make it safe, so that you can’t damage tissues,” he added.
When discussing emergency care, it seems childish to view a life-saving gadget with any queasiness. Still, there are those eight protruding needles.
Dr. Filips said that when the clamp is applied it creates no more discomfort than a finger prick. The needles go only four millimetres deep to avoid damage to the surrounding tissue. This makes it easier for wounds where a dressing is difficult such as the neck or groin area and where heavy bleeding can continue under a bandage, such as scalp wounds.
“The whole genesis of the idea comes from a complex suture pattern,” Dr. Filips said. “With your average person, all they need to know is that they can pick up this device, put it on the skin and squeeze it closed. But built into that device is all the engineering that replicates all of those things a doctor would do.”
The device has been approved by Health Canada for more than a year and a half, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a year and by Europe for about 15 months.