Oct. 16, 2002 -- Potatoes may soon replace bandages as the first line of defense against minor cuts and scrapes. Research shows a new potato-based powder can stop bleeding immediately and may also make surgery safer by reducing transfusions and their associated risks.
The novel blood-clotting agent, known in medical terms as a hemostat, is made from purified potato starch that's been refined into a fine powder. Researchers say the small, micro-particles act like tiny sponges that soak up water and blood plasma at the source of the bleeding, whether it's a wound on the skin or internal bleeding during surgery.
By reducing blood loss during surgery, researchers say the risks associated with blood transfusions may also be lowered through use of this new product.
Study author Mark Ereth, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., presented the findings of a new study of the hemostat today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in Orlando. The FDA approved the product for use late last year.
In the study, researchers tested how well the substance stopped bleeding in 30 volunteers with small incisions (cuts) on their forearm. When the topical substance was applied with pressure at the site of the cut, bleeding stopped immediately in 77% of the cases. People who did not receive the powder bled for about six minutes.
"Of the many topical hemostats developed over the past 40 years, none has had as small a side effect profile as this one," says Ereth in a news release. Because the substance is made from purified potato starch, it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than other, animal-derived products. He says the starch product is also much less expensive than other blood-clotting agents.
Ereth says the potato-based powder may be especially valuable on the battlefield by allowing medical personnel to quickly stop bleeding -- without the need to apply continuous pressure -- and freeing them up to treat other urgent injuries.