Trauma Center in a Backpack

The Navy finds providing trauma care for Marines and sailors deployed in remote locations to be a daunting challenge. When a person suffers major trauma such as a shrapnel wound, serious head injury or a severe burn, it is important to have rapid access to high level medical care. However, Navy and Marine Corps personnel often suffer these types of injuries in places where such care may be many hours away.

To remedy the problem, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) teamed up with biomedical scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to develop the “Automated Critical Care System” (ACCS).

The ACCS is intended to be a cruise control for critical care and to automatically sense and respond to a patient’s condition with appropriate intravenous fluid support and emergency drugs. The system is able to continuously gather vital data with non-invasive monitors, determine the proper therapeutic support for a particular type of trauma, and at that point, deliver fluid and drugs in precise quantities intravenously.

The entire package is expected to be no larger than a backpack, making it possible to support casualties in the limited space such as inside a crowded aircraft or ground transport. Marine Corps requirements specify that the system be able to autonomously manage a critically injured casualty for up to six hours.

According to UTMB Professor George Kramer, Principal Investigator on the project, “The ACCS is able to assist making decisions on treatment recommendations that can be accepted or rejected by a local medic or telemedicine caregiver. The system can also operate in a fully automated mode where the casualty can be treated without human input.”

“We want to greatly reduce the work load on the caregiver, making it possible to care for multiple casualties during an evacuation,” Kramer said. “We believe that this technology could make a critical difference in a mass-casualty event when there aren’t enough caregivers to go around.”

UTMB is in the first year of the four year $2 million ONR development contract on the ACCS. Researchers have been laying the groundwork for the system with Navy funded physiology and biomedical engineering studies since 2001.

So far, four Galveston-Houston startup companies have formed around UTMB inventions related to smart monitors and computerized decision support for trauma care.

For a video on ACCS, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hiCd4LthTc.

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