Dear America: You don’t have gun control, but at least now you can treat gunshots with a syringe

When someone is shot, first responders have to race against time to save the wounded. Now, a syringe that can plug a bullet wound in seconds has been approved by US regulators for use on the tens of thousands of people who fall prey to shootings every year.

The syringe—known as XSTAT 30—injects a group of small sponges into a wound cavity. The sponges can rapidly expand to fill the wound within 20 seconds of contact with blood. The temporary barrier restricts the blood for up to four hours, giving the wounded enough time to get surgical care.

The device was initially developed to be used by the US military by Oregon-based company RevMedx. To control life-threatening bleeding from wounds, army medics usually have to pack gauze directly into the wounds, a process so painful that “you take the guy’s gun away first,” former U.S. Army Special Operations medic John Steinbaugh told Popular Science. And it’s sometimes futile anyways: From 2001 to 2009, hemorrhaging, or bleeding out, was the second-leading cause of death for American soldiers with “potentially survivable” injuries on the battlefield.

Hemorrhage is also responsible for up to 40% of civilian trauma deaths. That may change now that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of XSTAT 30 on American adults and adolescents in the general population.

“It is exciting to see this technology transition to help civilian first responders control some severe, life-threatening bleeding while on the trauma scene,” William Maisel, an official in the FDA’s medical device evaluation center, said in a statement on Dec. 7.

“We believe there is place for XTAT in every police car and every ambulance, for people who are trained to use it,” Will Fox, vice president of sales and marketing for RevMedx tells Quartz. He said the device could be used in traffic accidents, where limbs are crushed, or in shootings, for gunshot wounds.

US gunshot deaths are expected to exceed deaths from car accidents in 2015, with nearly 30,000 shooting deaths expected in 2015, according to an analysis by Bloomberg.

Hanna Kozlowska contributed reporting to this article.

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