Casualties on the battlefield involve blood loss due to trauma. When hypothermia sets in, a soldier’s survival rate plummets by 25 percent. Biomedical engineering students from New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology are working on a blood warming device called Heat Wave that would be a real lifesaver.
The standard approach to warming hypothermic soldiers includes warm wool blankets and IV drips, which can take up to 16 hours to raise the body’s core temperature. If lab tests prove true, the Heat Wave could do this in just four hours, greatly increasing the soldiers’ survival rate.
The device is a portable heater/humidifier, designed to pump warm, moist air through an oxygen mask and into the patient’s lungs. Our entire body’s blood passes through our lungs, so utilizing this device would transfer the heated air through the lung tissue and into the blood.
So far, the student engineering team has tested their proof-of-concept prototype using an insulated container to represent the lungs, which was connected via a water-filled tube to another container, that was a stand-in for the cardiovascular system. The warm air was pumped into the first container and sensors measured the heat transfer that took place between it and the second container.
The Heat Wave would be used in conjunction with other treatments. The students are developing the device with help from the U.S. Army, and hope to pass the idea along to a company that can turn it into a field-deployable product. That would be a real difference-maker for all our troops.