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Solution to collapsed veins

Device produced from Health Science Center-private partnership could save numerous lives on battlefield, at site of EMS calls

San Antonio (March 6, 2003) — A man collapses with a heart attack . . . a soldier is hit by mortar fire. As they go into shock their veins fall, making a traditional IV very difficult to start. Without an infusion of fluids, blood or medicines, there's a strong chance they will die. When seconds count, a medical device that can shave minutes off the start of therapy would save thousands of these patients each year.

Just such a device, the VidaPort, was unveiled March 6 at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The handheld, battery-powered VidaPort was conceived and developed by emergency medicine physician Larry J. Miller, M.D., in conjunction with researchers at the Health Science Center. Dr. Miller is chairman and chief executive officer of VidaCare Corp. of San Antonio.

"As the nation continues to be in a state of vigilance for potential acts of terrorism, more is required of our first responders," said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. "When minutes and seconds matter, they need every tool they can get." Dr. Cigarroa announced the university has entered its first equity agreement in lieu of royalties with VidaCare, which is developing and marketing the product worldwide. "This is a great example of how the Health Science Center works with the community to develop intellectual property," Dr. Cigarroa said.

The medical community established years ago the effectiveness of administering blood transfusions, medicines and fluids through the bone marrow for infants who have collapsed veins due to shock. There has been no solution for adults because their bones are too hard to access the bone marrow, which has been called a non-collapsible vein. VidaPort, which drills a small needle through the bone to the marrow cavity, is expected to revolutionize a technique called intraosseous (IO) vascular access.

"This is a critically needed technology that will save thousands of lives a year," Dr. Miller said. "This technology and the science behind it will alter the standard of patient care throughout the world. It also solves a particular problem for our military. Medics in Special Operations generally operate at night. Most patients in such a theater have suffered life-threatening trauma. A study shows that on the average it takes a medic 12 minutes to start an IV. Lives are lost during that time because of the delay. Thanks to VidaPort, starting a line will take less than 10 seconds."

Dr. Miller was chairman of emergency medicine at the Baptist Health System hospitals in San Antonio until September 2002, and he has 30 years of experience as an emergency medicine physician.

Emphasis on homeland security is sure to make the VidaPort a timely weapon in combating the effects of terrorism. The threat of mass exposures to biological weapons such as anthrax or ricin makes finding a quick, reliable way to start fluids and medications even more essential, said Harold L. Timboe, M.D., M.P.H., vice president for administration and director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness and Biomedical Research at the Health Science Center. "In a situation involving mass casualties, paramedics and other first responders will need this new technology," said Dr. Timboe, former commander of Brooke Army Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The devices used in children are inserted manually. The VidaPort kit will come with an analgesic agent (lidocaine) to numb the area to the bone 30 seconds before insertion. The device can be inserted into the tibia (the shin bone) or arm. Most recipients would be suffering from shock or unconscious.

VidaCare and the Health Science Center are applying to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for 510k approval, which is a 90-day process. VidaCare expects FDA approval by August of this year. The VidaPort driver is expected to sell for about $150 and the replaceable needles for about $95.

Contact: Will Sansom or Aileen Salinas