Finally, a Shock to the System That’s Good For You

Interconnected neurons transfer information with electrical pulses. The neural tourniquet hopes to control internal bleeding though electric pulses. 4X-image/Getty Images

Traditional tourniquets have long been used to stop major blood loss from external wounds. But controlling internal bleeding is more difficult.

Researchers in the bioelectric medicine industry think they could have the answer with a new device called the Neural Tourniquet, and they're hopeful that it will someday pull the plug on bleeding out even being a threat.

The Neural Tourniquet is a portable device that can be placed anywhere on the body. It sends electrical signals to the vagus nerve, a nerve that helps the brain communicate with major organs. The goal is that the electrical currents will stimulate the body's blood clotting platelets at the sites in peril.

 Similar methods are already being used to stimulate appropriate bodily responses for problems like rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, depression and migraines.

Development so far has specifically zeroed in on postpartum hemorrhage (blood loss after childbirth), which is responsible for around 100,000 maternal deaths per year worldwide. However, it also has potential in other areas. Preclinical evidence shows a single treatment yielded 70 percent reduction in hemophilia-related blood loss and a 50 percent dip in blood loss in trauma cases.

"The Neural Tourniquet could represent a major breakthrough in treating bleeding. If successful, it would have tremendously positive implications, not only for women giving birth, but also for soldiers wounded in battle, for patients in emergency rooms, and for patients with chronic bleeding diseases such as hemophilia," said Ronald M. Burch, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Sanguistat, the company developing the product, in a press statement.

There's still a long way to go before the battery is totally charged on the technology, though. A large-scale clinical study is underway to test the device's efficacy with postpartum hemorrhage, so data won't be back on that for some time.