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Emergency Medical Care in a Backpack

After being transported by medevac from the battlefield by the 101st Airborne, U.S. Marine Pfc. Justin Turner, of Flower Mound, Texas, who was wounded in an IED attack, is helped into the trauma bay at an advanced U.S. military field hospital, at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, in southern Afghanistan. Aeromedical teams with the 101st Airborne's Task Force Destiny provide the fast medical evacuation of those wounded throughout southern Afghanistan. (Sept. 2, 2010 photo, AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Emergency Medical Care in a Backpack
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Researchers have created a backpack that has a computer and medicines in it that can help even untrained soldiers save the lives of wounded troops.

Wounded soldiers have a better chance of survival if they get help soon after being hurt and are quickly taken to a hospital or clinic.

But soldiers who do not have medical training may not know how to help their injured friends.

Doctors and engineers have developed what they call an “intelligent backpack.” It has a computer and electronic measuring devices. The backpack also has robotic instruments and medicines ready to give to injured troops.

About 16 doctors and engineers from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and several other places are working on the project. The U.S. Department of Defense has given money to the project.

Ron Poropatich leads the project. He is a retired Army surgeon. He says the backpack will help soldiers care for those who are injured. The devices included in the backpack can monitor a person’s heart rate and blood pressure, he says. The robotic instruments can even tell whether the soldier has a collapsed lung.

“You can then assess the individual’s heart rate, blood pressure, and have soft robotics collars with imaging devices in the neck that would tell me where the, the trachea is located, and have soft robotics with embedded sensors that tell me whether the lung is collapsed or not, have needles in areas where I would want to insert as the casualty is taken from the highway or the battlefield onto a helicopter.”

The intelligent backpack’s computer can compare information gathered about the injured soldier with thousands of similar cases, and quickly tell the best methods to use to save the soldier’s life.

Dr. Poropatich says scientists working on the project are trying to use the smallest possible devices.

“Can we put it on an iPhone, and can we have wires from the iPhone go onto the casualty?”

Sometimes, it is not always possible to quickly remove the injured soldier from the battlefield. So, Dr. Poropatich says, the researchers hope to create a backpack that will have devices that can keep a soldier alive for a long time.

“We will do a precision airdrop and drop in a backpack full of this miniaturized equipment easily inserted on the casualty and now monitoring it and then shooting a signal straight up to an unmanned vehicle that allows me to transport that signal to someone else to get a second opinion consult. That is all science fiction right now, but it’s at the point of very serious discussions with serious interest from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.”

Dr. Poropatich hopes the backpack and its instruments will be ready for testing on animals in about three years.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA Science and Technology Correspondent George Putic reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

assess – v. to make a judgment about (something)

trachea – n. a long tube in the neck and chest that carries air into and out of the lungs

embedded – adj. placed or set in something else