Wichita State News
Photo: Courtesy NIAR
A prototype of a rapid setting composite splint that could be used to help stabilize injuries in the battlefield and in everyday life.

WSU research could improve prognosis for battlefield injuries

Monday, May 06, 2013

Leg and arm injuries sustained in the battlefield are made worse when splinting devices used by military medics don’t provide ideal stabilization of the injured extremity.

But a project under way by Wichita State University research engineer Kim Reuter aims to change that. Reuter is working on the development of novel materials for a fast-setting composite stabilization device.

It would initially enable shape manipulation and then harden to create a stiff, protective, custom-shaped splint. The splint would provide more stability than current devices being used today, Reuter said.

The important features of the splint include portability, ease of use and improved support and protection.

Why is this so important?

Reuter said protecting injured limbs from further vascular, neural and soft tissue damage during transport to a medical treatment center will result in less bleeding, less pain, and faster recovery.

It could also provide a potentially life-altering benefit to the injured person.

“The increased protection and support during transport could mean the difference between keeping or losing a limb,” Reuter said.

Along with use in the battlefield, the improved splints could be used in daily life – added to first aid kit for emergency responders, athletic trainers, school nurses, outdoor enthusiasts, or parents. 

Outperforming traditional splints

The project is paid for by a $1.39 million grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. The grant was awarded in 2011 to WSU, and the work is being completed by NIAR’s Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopedic Research (CIBOR).

The composite materials being researched for the splint include a resin that instantly begins to cure when it comes in contact with the reinforcement fabric; and a resin that is mixed in a closed-air environment and, when exposed to oxygen, begins to polymerize.

In preliminary trials, these composite splints outperformed the traditional splint currently being used by the military. Reuter, who is in her second year working in this project, said the next steps are to finalize the material selection, fabricate prototypes and perform testing.

“This is just one of the many ways that the composite technology of the aerospace industry can be applied to the medical industry,” Reuter said. “The CIBOR team is excited to be exploring composites for orthopedic applications.”

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Created on Monday, May 06, 2013; Last modified on Tuesday, May 28, 2013