A patient at the University of California Davis Medical Center was losing blood from multiple gunshot wounds, and doctors feared he was not going to survive long enough for them to operate. The newly approved REBOA catheter was used to restore blood flow to his critical organs so they could save his life.
"Air Force research conducted at the CIF directly contributed to saving the life of this 28-year-old father of six," said Air Force Maj. Timothy Williams, 60th SGCS vascular surgeon. "I have done trauma surgery all of my professional life, including work at three civilian level I trauma centers and three deployments. I can, without reservation, state that REBOA saved his life." The CIF is the Clinical Investigation Facility located at David Grant USAF Medical Center, one of seven Air Force medical facilities with formal clinical investigation programs and resources.
Approved by the FDA in January, the REBOA (resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta) catheter was developed by researchers to slow bleeding, without damaging vital organs, so a patient can receive life-saving care. This device is inserted into a hemorrhaging vessel and stops or slows the blood flow to that injury while allowing blood flow to continue to vital organs and other body parts.
The idea originated at the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the main hub for autopsies performed on combat casualties. Air Force Maj. Lucas Neff, 60th SGCS vascular surgeon, explained: "The autopsies showed that the No. 1 cause of potentially survivable deaths by service members is noncompressible hemorrhaging in the chest and core. We have worked on techniques (with the REBOA) that allow us to control the amount of blood flow that can pass while using the catheter. It's like a faucet, where you can turn the flow down in areas where there is bleeding without turning it completely off, allowing blood to flow to other important areas."
Williams and Neff were deployed together to Afghanistan in 2014. "I don't know if I would've gone down this road of research if it wasn't for that deployment," Williams said. "Having actually been there and seen the casualties firsthand brought me to this research."