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SA researcher readies new battlefield tourniquet

New combat-ready clamp stops deadly groin bleeding

SAN ANTONIO – A first-of-its-kind tourniquet, designed by the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, has proven to save lives in the battlefield by stopping bleeding in the most common cause of preventable death. 

The device, called the Combat Ready Clamp, or CRoC, has been in research and development at Fort Sam for two years to stop groin bleeds, and is now being sold to the military worldwide.

The inspiration for the tourniquet device springs from the friendship its inventor, Dr. John F. Kragh, an orthopedic surgeon and researcher at the ISR, maintained with a figure known to military trivia buffs and war movies. 

Corporal Jamie Smith was a private when he and Kragh trained together. He later went on to be depicted in the war classic, "Black Hawk Down," when he was sprayed with gunfire in the groin area and died of profuse bleeding in Mogadishu in 1993. 

Kragh said it was his duty to find a better way. 

"This is to fill that gap and to give the medic who was there the right tool at the right time for the right person," he said.

The device looks like a vice grip, but with a pressure ball that descends to the area where the bleeding needs to stop. 

Whereas other types of tourniquets are successful at stopping bleeding in the extremities, this one is the first designed to hold tight to the groin area in rough conditions.

"It's whatever it needs. Once you've gained control of the bleeding, you can see it stop within a few seconds. It's not rocket science," described Kragh, as he demonstrated the CRoC.

In fact, the tourniquet is able to tighten so well that what was previously considered a mortally wounded soldier can now be treated in the field and transported via Jeep, helicopter or plane with the device firmly in place.

"We have a rule. Everyone deserves to die with the blood in their vessels, so preserving their hemorrhage will preserve their lives long enough to get to surgery," he said of the CRoC.

The CRoC was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010, then by the military in 2011. 

After several months in the field on a trial basis,  500 have been sold and there are 125 or so in use in the battlefield today. 

Kragh and the ISR expects that number to grow to more than 10 thousand in the coming years. Even some surgeons are seeing its use in operating rooms, as well as ambulance services who must also deal with the groin bleeding dilemma.

The CRoC is only the latest invention to be developed at the ISR, which focuses on providing combat casualty care medical solutions and products for the injured at Fort Sam Houston.