Ultrasound Could Have The Wounded Walking

TO A WOUNDED SOLDIER OR A CAR-CRASH victim, an hour can be the difference between life and death. That's the time it typically takes to bleed to death. Researchers at the University of Washington and Focus Surgery Inc. of Fremont, Calif., are developing an ultrasound device that could be rushed in to stanch hemorrhages. The technology is completely noninvasive: It uses sound waves to pinpoint and cut off bleeding.

According to Lawrence A. Crum, a principal scientist with Washington's applied physics department, the 300-pound ultrasound machine could use low-intensity sound waves to view a damaged organ and pinpoint the exact places where internal bleeding occurs. With the flip of a switch, it could then generate high-intensity ultrasound that focuses energy onto a small spot--a bleeding vein or artery, say. The resulting heat would coagulate blood and cauterize the injury. Such a method is already being tested on people to shrink enlarged prostates.

The Defense Dept.'s Advanced Research Projects Agency is kicking in $10 million over five years to develop this technology for the military. Crum predicts civilian paramedics will use it, too--perhaps within five years.

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