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Innovative medical technologies spurred by agreement

March 10, 1995 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. – Whether it's medics on a battlefield or paramedics in downtown Seattle, they all face the same race against the "golden hour" to save those suffering from internal injuries. Most victims die within this first hour if injuries are not accurately identified, diagnosed and treated -- a small window of time to get critical information to physicians, especially from remote locations.

Officials from Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Wash., and the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest Laboratory gathered at Madigan on March 1 to formalize an agreement to tackle this and other critical health care problems. Attendees of the signing ceremony included Washington Congressman Norm Dicks, Major General James Peake, Commander of Madigan, and PNL Director Bill Madia, who represented the involvement of the Laboratory and its operator, Battelle Memorial Institute.

"This agreement fuses PNL's medical technologies and systems expertise with Madigan's battlefield medicine and clinical trial experience, enabling us to tackle problems as a team that we could not solve individually," Madia said.

"It's a unique partnering of skills aimed at producing technologies to address health care concerns and save lives. Partnerships like this bring out the best in national laboratories, maximizing the public's investment in our institutions," Madia added.

The first collaboration under the new agreement involves the development of a portable imaging system that will use acoustic waves to locate and monitor internal injuries. The U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded the $5.2-million contract to PNL and Madigan to develop a device that provides real-time, three-dimensional images to immediately assess biological damage -- such as internal bleeding -- from battlefield trauma. The device also will be used to locate bullets or other fragments, greatly increasing the likelihood of successful treatment within the golden hour.

Imaged data will be digitized and transmitted to off-site physicians so specialized care can be provided to patients in remote locations.

While the initial application of the imaging system is targeted at battlefield scenarios, researchers also will investigate civilian uses. Portable units could be used in ambulances or in rural communities, linking the patient to specialized care regardless of their location.

The expertise and team approach used to address this need stems from research conducted jointly by PNL and Madigan, where researchers teamed to produce three-dimensional, real-time images of a fetus. By coupling PNL's computation and visualization technology with Madigan's ultrasonic recording device and health monitoring experience, the team proved that acoustic imaging is effective as a real-time "window" into the human body.

The imaging work is only a first step in a long-term relationship between PNL and Madigan. PNL also is assisting Madigan on a project that will use automation and "smart" computers to aid treatment of chronic headache sufferers, which afflict 45 million Americans. This research involves the development of a diagnostic system to assist health care providers in the treatment of headaches, and an information system designed to be an education tool and a low-cost alternative to collect patient information.

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Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of more than $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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