A Boon on the Battlefield?

Winter 2017

When a battlefield explosion injures a soldier’s face or neck, the critical air passage between the head and lungs may become blocked, leading to brain damage and death within minutes.

To help treat such injuries, an undergraduate team led by senior biomedical engineering major Antonio Spina has designed a low-cost, low-tech device dubbed CricSpike that may boost the success rate when combat medics need to create an artificial airway and pump air into the lungs. The 2016 prototype design has earned awards at medical device competitions.

Students demonstrating CricSpike

The student invention focuses on the emergency neck incision tactic called a cricothyrotomy—a tricky treatment that must be done very quickly under less-than-ideal conditions, which does not always work.

With retired U.S. Army physician James Gilman as the team’s sponsor and medical adviser, the students devised an improved intratracheal tip that is carefully crafted to extend beyond the skin layers to the windpipe but not far enough to reach the esophagus. To insert this tip into the neck, the team devised a two-piece handle that easily breaks away once the tip is connected to the trachea.

The student team, this semester being led by Michael Good and Qiuyin Ren and mentored by Steven Tropello at the School of Medicine, has worked with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures to obtain a provisional patent covering the design of its CricSpike components.