Nobody should bleed to death.
That sums up the mission of San Antonio, TX-based Pryor Medical Devices, which has licensed technology from the San Antonio Military Medical Center that could prevent internal bleeding from causing death. “For the Army, the number one problem is truncal hemorrhage,” says Pryor co-founder and CEO David Spencer, referring to bleeding injuries of the human torso. “Now the military is saying, we are going to make that problem go away.”
Non-compressible hemorrhage from truncal injury is the leading cause of potentially survivable deaths of American troops, according to the National Trauma Institute in San Antonio. “The current method for saving these people is to do a radical thoracotomy, crack open the chest, cross clamp the aorta, and block the blood flow just below the heart,” Spencer says. “But this is very invasive.”
Pryor has developed what it calls the ER-Reboa Catheter, a minimally invasive device inserted through the femoral artery to place a balloon just below the heart in order to block blood flow. The idea is that for those with severe internal bleeding from wounds on a faraway battlefield hospital or following a car crash closer to home, the device can prevent blood flow to the outer extremities while keeping intact the supply to vital organs.
This week, Pryor announced a $15.3 million contract from the U.S. Army and Navy to work on a device that doesn’t require fluoroscopy in order to confirm that the balloon is in place. “The military wants to make sure you can use this device safely in an environment like a battlefield where you don’t have X-ray,” Spencer says.
The company has raised a total of $24.5 million, which includes $17 million in government grants and other funding sources. Investors include BriarPatch Partners, part of the Hunt Family of Companies.
Pryor Medical has received 501k clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and plans to start selling the device to Level 1 trauma centers in the United States in January.
The company’s device is actually an upgrade on an old technology. Reboa, or Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta, was first used during the Korean War. But there haven’t been many improvements since then, Spencer says.
Pryor Medical set about updating the technology specifically for critical care environments, meaning a smaller balloon and catheter and a catheter tip that is softer to reduce the risk of damaging blood vessels during the hurried insertion of the device during an emergency.
“We also have pressure monitoring in the device,” Spencer says. “You want to see when the balloon goes up that the blood pressure above the balloon goes up, too. That tells you it’s working.”