Emergency physicians create inflatable tourniquet for military
■ Doctors in Alabama and Georgia hope the invention that stanches blood flow through the abdominal aorta will improve the care of lower-body wounds.
By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted Feb. 27, 2012
Making sidelines pay
Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: John Croushorn, MD
Specialty: Emergency medicine
Location: Birmingham, Ala.
Company: Compression Works sells an abdominal aortic tourniquet invented by Dr. Croushorn and fellow emergency medicine physician Richard Schwartz, MD, that can be strapped around the lower torso of a person with a penetrating groin wound to reduce the risk of bleeding out (link).
Annual revenue: The product has received Food and Drug Administration approval and is in the early manufacturing phase. The company has no reported revenue.
Why he started the business: Dr. Croushorn is a former military surgeon who volunteered for the National Guard after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, served in Iraq in 2004 and was deployed to areas of Mississippi decimated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
He noticed that certain groin injuries were more difficult to treat than other types of combat wounds because of the armor used by the military. If troops were injured in this way, medics would place a knee in the abdomen to stanch blood flow to the lower extremities.
Dr. Croushorn thought there had to be a better way to stabilize troops until they could get to a medical facility and allow medics to care for other patients at the same time.
He collaborated with Dr. Schwartz, head of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, to develop an abdominal aortic tourniquet that looks like a fanny pack. It's meant to be carried by a medic who can snap it around a patient's waist and manually inflate a bladder to apply pressure to the abdomen. A safety valve prevents it from being overinflated, and the device can be left in place for about an hour.
Compression Works was launched in 2007, received a provisional patent and then started research and development with the military. A distributor in the United Kingdom is helping introduce the device in Europe. The company has orders for 250 devices from the U.S. military for use in special operations in Afghanistan as well as further testing and research. Large-scale production is expected to begin this year.
Why he still practices: "There's still nothing as magical as taking care of folks and making them feel better. I love treating patients and the practice of medicine. I love emergency medicine. I love military medicine."
Words of wisdom: "You just have to start. You can think about it all you want to, but you just have to start."