Until now, doctors have resorted to using clips, heated probes or even surgery to stop bleeding in the stomach and gullet, which can damage tissue or involve invasive procedures.
But the new mineral product, Hemospray, delivers a powder that, when in contact with blood, absorbs water and forms a gel, creating a barrier to stop the bleeding.
It has already been used to treat patients at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and will be officially launched at the British Society of Gastroenterology annual meeting in the city this week.
The spray, from Cook Medical, is designed to be used in patients who have suffered bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract (upper GI), which includes the stomach and oesophagus.
A tube is inserted into the body to the source of the bleeding where the product is then sprayed. Dr John Morris, consultant gastroenterologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, called Hemospray “very exciting”.
He said: “In clinical practice in Scotland and around the world, upper GI bleeding is a life-threatening emergency. The tools we have currently available are effective but they are quite challenging to use and not readily applied in all patients.”
Dr Morris said Scotland had among the highest rate of admissions to hospital for stomach bleeding in the world, making it a major problem. Common causes include ulcers linked to use of painkillers in people with chronic conditions, as well as certain types of bacteria.
“The real challenge is to be able to quickly and effectively offer these people treatment,” Dr Morris said. “Previously it would have required an operation in the most challenging cases, opening up the abdomen for a surgeon to put a stitch in. So something that can take me minutes with this new technology is a huge step forward.”
He said the advantage of using Hemospray was that medics did not need to find the exact source of the bleeding as was necessary with other devices. It could also be used by doctors to help a patient before they can be transferred to a hospital for extra, specialist treatment.
Across the UK around 4,000 deaths a year are linked to uncontrolled upper GI bleeding. Dr Morris said it was possible that a significant number of patients could now be saved. “Our experience is that it’s effective in over 85 per cent of patients who were treated,” Dr Morris added.
Barry Slowey, vice president at Cook Medical, said: “Because these bleeds can be complicated, no treatment option represents the perfect solution, even Hemospray.
“However, we do feel that this new device gives clinicians another important tool for the care of their patients.”