Clinical scientists enhance lifesaving research

Posted on in Research

Experts at The James Cook University Hospital have assisted a military research programme by developing a unique tool that could help save the lives of those suffering from severe blood loss.

Clinical scientists within the Middlesbrough hospital’s medical physics team came up with a way to attach a lower body suction machine to a standard physiotherapy tilt table to enable a collaboration with research teams at Durham University to safely simulate shock on a battlefield so they can monitor the body’s reaction to blood loss.

Tilt table at James Cook Hospital

Medical physics team with Lt Col Jeremy Henning and Louise Cawthorn and the new research tool

Lt Colonel Jeremy Henning, a consultant in intensive care medicine employed by the British Army who works at James Cook, said: “Conflict always pushes forward the boundaries of knowledge in medicine, and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are no exception.

“Most notable from these conflicts has been the realisation that the body’s reaction to blood loss is far more complicated than we ever thought.

“One thing we lacked was a good model of shock due to blood loss. There are several animal models, and whilst they have produced good data, especially with regards to the physiological consequences of losing blood they are not great at predicting what happens when you give drugs to these casualties. Equally, for some years we have been using a system whereby we pool the blood of human volunteers into their pelvic veins, but this model has always been limited as we could only mimic mild to moderate blood loss in the majority of volunteers.

“That is where the medical physics team at James Cook came in. By adapting a standard physiotherapy tilt table, and providing a means for us to attach our apparatus to it, they have produced a system that allows us to pool the blood in the pelvis of our volunteers whilst they have their feet tilted down.

“This should allow us to mimic far more extreme blood loss and therefore look at drug handling in a far more scientific way. The real beauty of what they have done for us is to make sure the system was robust and safe – and also to have an emergency head down tilt should the volunteer have any untoward problems.

“I have no doubt that without this help our project would be stalled at this safety issue. I equally hope that this will allow us to make some meaningful observations to help save lives of anyone suffering from acute blood loss in the future.”