Military Clothing Designed to Help Stop Bleeding

A Virginia company is developing clothing with tourniquets built into each sleeve and leg. The company says the product would help wounded soldiers at risk of bleeding to death.

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Next, let's look at an effort to improve the odds of surviving the war on terror. When American soldiers go into combat, they are supposed to carry a tourniquet. It's a device of cloth and plastic meant to stop the bleeding after a serious injury. Military doctors consider tourniquets essential and a Virginia company wants to go further by building tourniquets into soldier's uniforms. NPR's Adam Hochberg reports.

ADAM HOCHBERG: Among the many risks soldiers face, few are more serious than major extremity wounds when a bullet or explosive device damages the main artery in the arms or legs. It's a relatively common injury in warfare and often a fatal one. And it's why Terry Naughton's company has introduced a new type of military uniform.

Mr. TERRY NAUGHTON, (BlackHawk Products Group owner): There's two tourniquets. They're built into the pants so if I got hit, I can come here open the tourniquet, I can stop the blood flow within 22 seconds.

HOCHBERG: Naughton is with a Virginia company called BlackHawk Products Group, a manufacturer of military and law enforcement gear. At a Las Vegas trade show this month, he demonstrated the companies integrated tourniquet system. Trousers with tourniquets in the legs and jackets with them in the arms. Naughton wants the Pentagon to incorporate the idea into military uniforms so troops can apply their own tourniquets if they're wounded.

Mr. NAUGHTON: You got hit in the femoral artery, if you don't apply pressure and stop that within two minutes, you're gonna pass out. Another minute later, you are going to be dead. So with this system, what we are allowed to do, we can access it immediately and I can stabilize and seek medical attention.

HOCHBERG: According to one study, the conventional tourniquets that soldiers already carry can reduce deaths from extremity injuries more than 50 percent, but BlackHawk officials claim that their product is even better. Doctor Keith Rose(sp) a retired Army surgeon, who developed it, says the integrated tourniquets can be at work stopping blood loss within eight seconds after an injury.

Dr. KEITH ROSE: The current tourniquet used by the military is a fine tourniquet, but it doesn't take into account whether the operator or soldier, at the time, can find the tourniquet. Is it day time? Is it nighttime? Is he crammed into a Humvee where he can't just reach into his pack and pull it out. And the nice thing about the integrated tourniquet system is that it is right there.

HOCHBERG: BlackHawk has demonstrated the system for military leaders who say they are considering whether to use it. Skeptics in the military communities point out that integrated tourniquets haven't been tested in combat and so far, there is no scientific data to prove that they would save more lives than regular tourniquets do. Meanwhile, as BlackHawk waits for the Pentagon's response, the company has begun marketing the integrated tourniquet line to other possible customers.

At the trade show, the product attracted interested from Florida weapons dealer, Ron Rogers, who envisions civilian uses for it.

Mr. RON ROGERS (Weapons dealer): I mean, law enforcement has a certain application for SWAT teams in terms of their uniforms and it's a product that meets a need and they meet it in a way that was well thought out so when you look at the application, it's gonna save lives.

HOCHBERG: BlackHawk says in addition to law enforcement personnel it hopes to find a potential market among military contractors, hunters, and even people who work in dangerous industries like oil riggers. The company has just begun shipping integrated tourniquet trousers, direct to the public with prices starting about $90 a pair. Adam Hochberg, NPR News.

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