Electrical stimulation of the veins and arteries of rats, using microsecond pulses, may be able to help control bleeding and reduce haemorrhage in non-compressible wounds, a study published in Scientific Reports suggests. Further research is needed to establish whether the technique would be effective in human patients, but the technique might potentially be helpful for controlling non-compressible haemorrhages in traumatic injury or during surgery.
Applying a tourniquet to a haemorrhage can help to reduce traumatic mortality on the battlefield, but the technique cannot be used on non-compressible haemorrhages, including bleeding into body cavities, such as the abdomen, and wounds in the junction between the trunk and the limbs or neck. In the 1970s, it was shown that applying a direct electric current to a clamped blood vessel for several minutes could induce thrombosis. However, the resulting thermal damage prevented the use of the technology in clinical practice.
Yossi Mandel and colleagues from Daniel Palanker’s lab, applied microsecond pulses of electric current to the veins and arteries in the femoral (groin) area and abdominal cavities of rats. This induced vasoconstriction in these blood vessels within seconds, with the blood vessels dilating back to their original size within a few minutes. With a stronger current complete and permanent blocking of the blood vessels occurred. The bleeding rate in the rats’ femoral and abdominal arteries decreased, rapidly stopping the haemorrhage, and reducing the blood loss from the femoral artery by a factor of seven compared to untreated animals. The authors observed no damage to the tissue up to 3.5 hours after the vasoconstriction, although a longer follow-up is needed to evaluate any potential longer term effects on the tissue.