Trauma happens unexpectedly. A car accident, a shooting, a serious fall-- it's the third leading cause of death in the United States. And uncontrollable bleeding is often the culprit.
"It's about 20 percent will die from uncontrolled hemorrhaging. And the uncontrolled hemorrhaging we now know-- this has only been known for 10 year or so-- that the uncontrolled hemorrhaging is because the system has become compromised; it's defective," said Dr. Kenneth Mann, a researcher at the University of Vermont.
But experts like Mann don't know why. Why can't some seemingly healthy patients make blood clots after trauma? It's a biological phenomenon called coagulopathy. And doctors working in the fast-paced, sometimes chaotic environment of the emergency room have no way of knowing there's a problem until traditional therapies, including transfusions of different blood products, fail to stop the bleeding.
"We can patch up the injuries, we can stitch up the wounds, but if someone can't make a blood clot then we have trouble resuscitating them," said Dr. Kalev Freeman of UVM-FAHC emergency medicine.
So Freeman on the front lines and Mann in his research laboratory are trying to find some answers. Mann recently secured a nearly $24 million grant from the National Institutes of Health designed to find out why the clotting process is sometimes impaired and ultimately, how to fix it. It's a 10-site, multidisciplinary study.
"So I've recruited centers around the country-- very bright investigators who are leaders in the field-- in various areas which we think may contribute to this compromise," Mann said.
But why Vermont for such a big dollar project-- where trauma occurs, but not in huge numbers?
"One of the reasons that Vermont was able to win this grant and lead this grant is because we have demonstrated true interdisciplinary cooperation," Freeman said. "We have nine investigators from UVM from five different departments. So we have biochemistry leading it, plus the department of surgery, pharmacology, pathology and engineering."
It's a five-year study looking to unlock the mystery behind a bleeding syndrome that's killing thousands of trauma patients each year.
The study also involves a unique collaboration with the Department of Defense. Some of the clinical samples will come from its military centers.
PO Box 4508