For soldiers shot on the battlefield, getting emergency trauma care as quickly as possible becomes essential to their survival. But being surrounded by other soldiers in the heat of battle, and with only an hour — known as the Golden Hour — before their chances of survival start dwindling, getting quick help can be especially difficult. Hoping to quicken the trauma-care process, a new device, known as XStat, promises to caulk gunshot wounds in as little as 15 seconds.

The XStat, developed by RevMedx, was made to control arterial bleeding in severe gunshot wounds. It comprises a modified syringe that, once inserted into the wound, releases small, “rapidly-expanding” sponges that are coated in a hemostatic agent. In as little as 15 seconds, these sponges are able to expand, apply pressure, and stop bleeding. “In a swine model with aggressive, non-compressible hemorrhaging, XStat provided statistically significant improvement in hemostasis and survival 60 minutes after injury with a large reduction in blood loss, resuscitation fluid requirement, and medic treatment time compared to conventional hemorrhage control dressings,” RevMedx’s website said.

The XStat's sponges quickly expand in the wound, while a hemostatic agent covering them clots blood. RevMedx

Although the XStat is still considered an investigational device by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if it were to get approval, it would not only reduce the urgency during the Golden Hour for a soldier to get treatment, but it would also save space in a medic’s pack — three applicators could replace five rolls of gauze. Current treatments for gunshot wounds on the battlefield involve painfully stuffing gauze into the gunshot wound until the bleeding stops. If that doesn’t work, then the medic needs to redo the process. The problem with that, though, is that “gauze bandages just don’t work for anything serious,” former U.S. Army Special Operations medic John Steinbaugh told Popular Science.

Hemorrhaging is one of the predominant causes of death in soldiers on the battlefield, accounting for 80 percent of deaths among those who had a “potentially survivable” major trauma. On the home front, there were about 31,000 deaths by firearms each year from 2007 to 2010. Meanwhile, another 81,000 people suffer non-fatal injuries from firearms each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although its manufacturers only intend for its use in the battlefield right now, XStat may one day be used to treat civilian injuries as well.

The idea for XStat first came from tire-repairing expandable foam. Although it could expand, it couldn’t properly plug the bleeding. “That’s what we pictured as the perfect solution,” Steinbaugh told Popular Science. “But we found that blood pressure is so high, blood would wash the foam right out.” They next bought unsterilized kitchen sponges from a hardware store, cut them into circles, and plugged them into an animal’s injury — it worked.

After receiving a $5 million grant from the U.S. Army, the team next set out to find sterile materials. They settled on a sponge made from wood pulp and covered in a hemostatic substance made from shrimp shells. XStat will come in diameters of 30 millimeters and 12 millimeters — for treating large and small wounds — and will cost about $100 each, although the price is expected to drop as demand rises.