Researchers Trial Nerve Stimulation to Control Bleeding

Researchers Trial Nerve Stimulation to Control Bleeding

Researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have developed a ‘neural tourniquet’ that can be used to stop bleeding. While many surgeons remain skeptical about the use of nerve stimulation to stop bleeding, the researchers hope to demonstrate the effectiveness of their technique in a clinical trial. The Feinstein team believes this revolutionary use of nerve stimulation to control bleeding can save hundreds of thousands of lives.

The researchers have been working on nerve stimulation to control bleeding for around 15 years; however, the tech and technique have now been developed to a stage where clinical trials on humans can commence. The researchers have previously demonstrated the effectiveness of their technique on animals. The team found that the use of a neural tourniquet reduced bleeding time and blood loss in a study on pigs. Bleeding time was reduced by 40% while blood loss was reduced by 50%.

The neural tourniquet is vastly different from standard tourniquets used by first responders to physically restrict blood flow. There is no compression of blood vessels to restrict blood flow, instead a device is applied to the skin that stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve communicates information from the brain to the internal organs, and in this case, signals are sent to the spleen.

According to the researchers, the technique primes the platelets to form blood clots when a wound is encountered anywhere in the body. While local stimulation is applied, the technique can be used to prevent or quickly stop a hemorrhage anywhere in the body. According to Feinstein Institute vice-president Chris Czura, the technique is used to simply augment the body’s natural response to stop bleeding. “The body has this natural physiologic pathway to control bleeding, and this [technique] just ramps it up.”

Research on animals has shown the technique is effective for both superficial and internal injuries. By stimulating the vagus nerve the researchers were able to trigger an increase in concentrations of the enzymes used to clot blood at the site of an injury, while keeping enzyme levels throughout the body at normal levels.

The clinical trial is being conducted as a treatment for postpartum hemorrhage. Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death and is responsible for the deaths of 80,000 women a year in Asia and Africa. The trial will be run in the United States and at currently unspecified locations throughout Asia and Africa.

The researchers are confident that their technique – and the associated tech – can be used to treat wounds received by the armed forces in combat or as a preventative technique to protect against hemorrhaging during surgery. Should the trial prove successful, the technique could give surgeons an incredible valuable tool to prevent blood loss and stem bleeding and save many lives.

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