Gunshot wounds are really dangerous, messy things, and much more numerous than you’d think. In an attempt to reduce mortality and improve treatment options the FDA has approved a military medical device, created specifically to treat someone who has just suffered a gunshot or other penetrating wound, for non-military use.

Image via engineerpal

Almost half of battlefield deaths since World War II have been attributed to bleeding, as is the case with 30 to 40 percent of civilian trauma-related deaths, according to the Army Institute of Surgical Research. Now, to give first responders a better tool of preventing blood loss, the FDA has approved the use of military equipment for civilians.

Dubbed the XSTAT 30, the device resembles a syringe filled with small sponges that are injected into the gunshot wound and said to be capable of stopping bleeding in as little as 20 seconds. The sponges, made of cellulose and covered in an absorbent layer, are safe to use for up to four hours, allowing the patient to receive surgical care.

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“When a product is developed for use in the battlefield, it is generally intended to work in a worst-case scenario where advanced care might not be immediately available,” Dr. William Maisel, acting director of the FDA’s Office of Device Evaluation, said in a statement.

“It is exciting to see this technology transition to help civilian first responders control some severe, life-threatening bleeding while on the trauma scene.”

Each applicator holds 92 such sponges, each measuring in at 9.8 millimeters in diameter that can absorb 3 milliliters of fluid adding up to almost a pint of blood between them. As soon as they come in contact with blood, the sponges rapidly expand to about 10 times their original size, and fill the wound cavity in about 20 seconds to form a temporary blockage for the blood flow. As some patients may require more serious dressings — up to three applicators can be utilized on a single individual safely — the device is being sold in packages of one up to three syringes.

An FDA spokesperson said the device should be particularly useful in cases where a tourniquet isn’t useable.

XSTAT 30 is approved to be used in individuals at heavy risk for immediate and significant hemorrhagic shock and non-compressible junctional wounds, like armpits, when quality care at an emergency facility can’t be achieved in a few minutes, the FDA said. XSTAT 30 is not yet cleared for use in several areas of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, or tissue higher than the collarbone.

Here’s a video explaining how the device works: