Resources:
Sandia National Laboratory

Emergency-room staff and EMTs routinely rely on trauma shears to cut through a patient’s clothing and access a wound that needs immediate treatment. These cutting tools must slice through a wide range of materials, including denim, leather, and even bulletproof Kevlar.

Most trauma shears are flimsy and poorly constructed with blades that dull quickly. And they are typically used once then thrown away. But two inventors — Scott Forman, an ER physician, and Mark Reece, a materials engineer at Sandia National Laboratory — got together to redesign the shears. Reece was able to participate thanks to the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program, which pays scientists and engineers inside Sandia to work with outside entrepreneurs.

The result: a pair of trauma shears with an ergonomic, ambidexterous handle and a built-in carabiner. The carabiner, a common tool for mountain climbers, lets physicians and EMTs easily attach the tool to a belt loop, keeping it close at hand. The hand length and handle pivot point lets users generate considerable torque and expend less effort for heavy cutting. And the high-carbon stainless-steel blades hold an edge longer than previous models but can also be resharpened. The entire shears can be sterilized in an autoclave. One of the blades is serrated, letting it cut through Kevlar, ballistic nylons, thick fabrics, and even fiberglass.

The team also incorporated suggestions from EMT personnel. So the shears include a ripper attachment with replaceable blade for quickly slicing though clothing, a bottle opener for medications, a key for opening and closing oxygen tanks, and a window punch.

The shears will likely be sold and marketed by Héros, a company founded by Forman. The Innovative trauma shears make the cut shears will cost from $20 to $60, compared to $5 to $10 for typical throwaway versions. But those who have tested the prototypes say they are much better and well worth the extra cost.

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.