I sharpened Mrs. P’s chef’s knife the other day. Tonight, the knife fought back and gave her a good nick on the thumb while she was carving up a roast chicken for dinner. Some direct pressure with a hastily grabbed paper towel after a quick rinse with soap and water to get rid of the worst of the chicken grease, and she sat down while we took over the dinner chores.
I took a look after dinner and it was still bleeding. A tiny cut, really, but pretty deep and at just the right angle to expose a lot of capillaries. Not a very good clotter, my wife. So I decided to help her out with that by getting out some Quik Clot, a hemostatic agent based on zeolite, a type of clay. It’s supposed to do a great job of accelerating the clotting cascade and stopping bleeding fast.
Not so much.
I opened the package, which is a heavy plastic vacuum pouch. Inside is a small gauze bag, about 2″x3″, filled with little round balls. It felt a little like a bean bag with really small beans. The amount of direct pressure she could apply was a bit self-limiting due to the pain of having zeolite balls pressing into an open wound on a highly enervated area. We took the pack off, which was fun for her as it had adhered to the wound, but it was still bleeding.
We tried several cycles of this, sometimes with me applying the pressure, sometimes her, and all the time keeping the thumb above the level of her heart. After a total of probably 20 minutes, the bleeding had slowed very little, if at all. Kind of disappointing – I had expected very rapid hemostasis.
So what went wrong? My first thought was surface area – I thought the pack would have zeolite powder, not little beads, and so maybe it was a case of too little surface area of material in contact with the wound. To test this, I opened the bag and poured out the beads. To my surprise, most of the beads had no blood on them at all. In fact, at least 90% of the blood was absorbed into the gauze and appears never to have made it onto the zeolite. I started to grind up the beads into a powder, with the thought of sprinkling it into the wound to see if it worked better, but we decided against unwrapping the dressing yet again.
I guess the bottom line is that, despite appearances, there just wasn’t enough blood to activate the zeolite in any serious way. I can see how one of these packs would work really well for a large wound with substantial bleeding, but for little cuts like this, plain old direct pressure was probably the right way to go. I’ll still keep some of these in stock, but there’s a right time to use them, and this wasn’t one of them.