Researchers at the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) are testing a new aeromedical evacuation stretcher that has been designed to transport traumatic brain and spinal injury patients.

Developed by Cornerstone Research Group (CRG), the stretcher can be used across multiple services within the US Department of Defense to transport patients in air and ground vehicles.

USAF 711th Human Performance Wing biomedical engineer Dr. David Burch said: “Having adequate spinal immobilisation is very critical when transporting patients with these types of injuries.

"Our wounded warfighters experience a much rougher ride back to definitive care than we experience stateside.

“Military medical transport relies on vehicles of opportunity, which were never designed to provide a smooth ride.

"There is a lot of vibration and perturbation from turbulence or terrain gets transmitted to the patient, making adequate fixation necessary to prevent further neurologic damage.”

The testing and evaluation of the new device is being carried out as part of a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) signed between CRG and USAFSAM 2013.

As per the agreed terms, USAFSAM provides access to C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III high-bays for ongoing device compatibility testing and evaluation carried out by experts with in-depth understanding of medevac needs.

"Having adequate spinal immobilisation is very critical when transporting patients with these types of injuries."

CRG has designed the device under a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) agreement with the army.

The new device has a specialised mattress pad that has been added to eliminate bed sores that can cause ongoing problems for the patient.

It is also fitted with a foot replacement that can absorb shock and vibration while in transit and is in compliance with Nato design standards for loading, altitude and vibration.

Image: CRG's aeromedical evacuation stretcher is shown during a compatibility test on a KC-135 Stratotanker. Photo: courtesy of Cornerstone Research Group.