Their invention, made by Prytime Medical and cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015, is gradually being adopted in civilian trauma centers around the country and has recently been used by the military. But medical teams need rigorous training to use it: Mishandled, it can be dangerous.
Dr. Bukur punctured Ms. Williams’s thigh, threaded a slim tube into her femoral artery and eased it up about 12 inches into her aorta, the major artery that carries blood from the heart to most of the body. Then he injected salt water to inflate a balloon near the tip of the tube, blocking the aorta and cutting off circulation to Ms. Williams’s pelvis and legs. Above the balloon, blood still flowed normally to her brain, heart, lungs and other vital organs.
Almost instantly, her blood pressure rose and her racing heart slowed down. The balloon stopped the hemorrhaging inside her pelvis, almost like turning off a faucet. Reboa stands for resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta, but some doctors describe it simply as an “internal tourniquet.”
The clock was ticking. Circulation could be safely cut off for only so long — ideally, no more than about 30 minutes. Beyond that, the lack of blood flow could severely damage Ms. Williams’s legs and internal organs. The balloon had only bought the medical team a bit of time to find the source of the blood loss and fix it. If they failed, when they deflated the balloon they would be back where they started, with Ms. Williams on the verge of bleeding to death.
In New York City, Dr. Sheldon H. Teperman, director of trauma and critical care services at NYC Health & Hospitals/Jacobi, and Dr. Aksim G. Rivera, a vascular surgeon there, have been teaching the procedure to trauma surgeons at city hospitals and other medical centers in the area. Bellevue…