The MUHC has introduced a first in local trauma care: a balloon catheter that stops bleeding within minutes in a patient who is hemorrhaging.

The lifesaving innovation was developed by two American doctors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hemorrhaging is one of the top causes of death on the battlefield, they say, especially in locations touting hidden IED’s, or close to the crossfire.

This new model of balloon catheter, called the ER-REBOA, is based on a minimally invasive one used during the Korean War.

Without it, doctors in the field would more than likely have to open a patient’s chest in a controlled setting to clamp the aorta and stop the bleeding.

The balloon catheter is threaded up through the femoral artery in the groin, up to the aorta, and as the balloon expands inside the body it acts as an internal tourniquet – stopping bleeding in a minute or less.

Dr. Andrew Beckett is the trauma surgeon who introduced the device to the MUHC. He also happens to be Chief of Surgery and Trauma for the Canadian Military.

“People can bleed out very quickly – within minutes – and to improve the survival rate you have to get on top of bleeding,” he explained. “What we know is that speed saves lives [when it comes to] controlling a hemorrhage.”

During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beckett said about 20 per cent of the patients who could’ve been saved were dying from pelvic fractures and bleeding from the groin.

“There was a strong need to develop some technology that could rapidly control that kind of bleeding,” Beckett added.

This is the first time the device has been introduced in a civilian setting.

The device was tested on two men so far at the Montreal General – the first two in Canada.

One patient was shot six weeks ago, and would have bled out if physicians were not able to rush him to the hospital to receive treatment.

In the end, it only took 43 seconds for the doctor to insert the catheter, inflate it, and stop the bleeding.