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Naval Medical Center Portsmouth's iTClamp wins MHS research award

Image of a plastic clamp on someone's arm. The iTClamp, a mechanical wound closure device, is being demonstrated at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. NMCP’s Combat Trauma Research Group recently won the 2020 Military Health System Research Symposium’s Team Research Award for their redesign of the device, which is superior in treating battlefield wounds, controlling blood loss from potentially lethal hemorrhages, and is faster to employ than traditional methods. (Photo by MC Seaman Ariana Torman.)

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Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s (NMCP) Combat Trauma Research Group (CTRG) recently received the 2020 Military Health System Research Symposium’s Team Research Award for their redesign of a mechanical wound closure device, the iTClamp.

The iTClamp is a mechanical wound closure device that seals wounds versus just putting pressure around the outside of the wound. With the new design, the product works better in junctional areas, parts of the body such as the armpit, neck, and crease of the groin, where it is more difficult to get a wrapping around the wound.

“This idea actually came about by accident,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Stuart, NMCP’s medical director of the Emergency Department and director of the CTRG. “Our initial goal was to test the iTClamp and my team and I saw the potential for it to be used in conjunction with hemostatic wound dressing.”

During the testing process, the team had several failures and observed that the design of the device was the cause. The team then decided to publish their research and work on a redesign of the product that would make it more effective. The resulting product was superior in treating battlefield wounds, controlling blood loss from potentially lethal hemorrhages and was faster to employ than traditional methods.

Before winning the award, the CTRG conducted three trials with the first beginning two years ago. The first trial was a research trial that identified areas that needed to be addressed to successfully redesign the device. The second trial was another research trial where the device was tested. The third trial tested not only how the device worked in general, but how it worked in the hands of its intended users, corpsmen. Stuart believes that adding this element to the trial is what set their group apart from others.

“I need to know how my corpsmen can perform with devices and how it will be used on the front lines,” said Stuart. “Is it easy to use? Is it functional? The results from their feedback validated the feasibility of service wide employment of this device.”

The collaborative effort by the members of the CTRG through these three trials resulted in a new, effective, in-field hemorrhage-control technique that will advance the mission of preserving life on the battlefield.

“Hemorrhage control of bleeding is one our biggest problems in military medicine,” said Stuart. “Our motto is ‘saving lives on the battlefield’, and as operational physicians, we have experiences that give us unique insight that backs our research, which others may not have.”

Stuart believes that research is a team effort and a very involved process.

“We have a robust team with a lot of moving parts and that’s why we’ve been able to win this award and do such great things,” said Stuart. “Only through a team approach can you pull off something so complex without missing anything.”

Stuart recognized Dr. Emily Fredrick, the CTRG’s program manager, for keeping all of the parts of the project moving forward.

“It certainly does feel good to have won this award,” said Stuart. “People may not realize the hundreds of hours that goes into developing, designing, and acquiring funds for a study. The group’s purpose is to conduct research that impacts the operational warfighter, so it was rewarding to get that positive feedback and know that something we did is making an impact.”

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