A £1.1-million study led by the University of Aberdeen is trialling a new technique that aims to control life-threatening bleeding in trauma victims.

The REBOA (Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta) technique - which involves temporarily stopping blood flow to the lower part of the body until patients can be operated on - is to be tested at a number of major trauma centres during the trial.

The technique will only be used on patients with uncontrolled, life-threatening bleeding from injuries to the torso, a injury often seen in car crash victims or people who have fallen from height which is also the most common cause of preventable death in trauma patients.

Bleeding in the abdomen or chest usually requires an operation to stop it, so people with such injuries can bleed to death before they reach an operating theatre.

REBOA works by inserting a balloon device, through the femoral artery in the groin, into the body’s main artery. Once above the location of the injury it is inflated, blocking the artery and stopping the blood flow to the injured parts of the body while maintaining the supply to the heart and the brain. This gives extra time to prepare the patient for surgery.

The trial, which will take place across 10 major trauma centres in England over four years, is designed to compare the survival of those who receive REBOA and those who do not in order to establish whether it is an effective intervention.

“The technology is not without its complications,” said Jan Jansen, a consultant in general surgery and intensive care medicine and honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, and the chief investigator of the study.

“Cutting off blood from half the body can only be done for so long and you have to deal with the consequences of that but with injuries this severe it can be a trade-off worth making. We want to find out if it is worth taking an extra few minutes to do this procedure and arrive in the theatre in a more controlled state.”

The study is supported by a £1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) health technology assessment board.