The University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers have been awarded up to $7.3 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) for critical new research to optimize the triage of patients in mass casualty events. The funds will support a study to collect trauma patient data over the next 3.5 years, with the aim of identifying and implementing life-saving advancements in medical triage during mass casualty events.
The DARPA Research Infrastructure for Trauma with Medical Observations (RITMO) program, which is funding the study, aims to create a single database of de-identified trauma patient data from the early post-injury period. The RITMO program is the fundamental data component of the DARPA Triage Challenge, a 3.5-year challenge to advance the development of physiological „signatures“ of injuries to help medical first responders quickly assess patient vital signs, make triage decisions, and provide assistance in life-threatening mass casualty incidents. This includes events such as severe traffic accidents, natural disasters like hurricanes or wildfires, or violent attacks like mass shootings.
The UMSOM team will collect de-identified data from trauma patients aged 18 to 65 who are admitted to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center over the next three years. The collected data will include continuous patient vital signs and life-saving medical intervention data at every phase of trauma triage, including field care, helicopter transport, trauma center admission, and resuscitation and stabilization. The team will also contribute additional indicators of patient status, such as brain and tissue oxygen levels, to aid in identifying potential neurological injuries.
„With minute-level patient data, we can gain a clearer picture of where a patient’s condition is deteriorating and prepare our trauma teams with critical answers, such as how much blood may be needed upon arrival. The ability to receive real-time insights before patients reach the trauma center is crucial for advancing the triage process.“
– Thomas Scalea, MD, the Francis X. Kelly Distinguished Professor of Trauma Surgery at UMSOM, Director of the Trauma Program, and Chief Physician at the Shock Trauma Center
The results of this new study will also be used in a separate RITMO initiative called the DARPA Triage Challenge Data Competition. Teams in the data competition are tasked with developing algorithms using non-invasive sensors to identify signs of injuries, providing insights that allow for accurate triage decision-making, such as prioritizing medical evacuations.
As part of the DARPA Triage Challenge, a robotics team at the University of Maryland College Park is working on developing drones with distance sensors that use the algorithms to advance real-time aerial assessment of vital signs and injuries. Sarah Murthi, MD, a professor of surgery at UMSOM and an intensive care surgeon at the Shock Trauma Center, is part of this team and will contribute her expertise in medical sensors and triage procedures.
„The number of US mass shooting incidents has nearly doubled in the past five years to over 600 shootings per year, underscoring the urgent need to advance new triage technologies,“ said Mark T. Gladwin, MD, Dean of UMSOM. „The combination of high-resolution physiological data with machine learning tools will ultimately bring forth a new form of precision medicine in critical care to better assess the immediate needs of a trauma patient and ultimately save lives.“
Over the past 10 years, Dr. Hu and his colleagues have received $35 million in grants to provide data and support the development of life-saving trauma interventions. He is also working on other research to predict the early need for blood transfusions in mass casualty events.
University of Maryland School of Medicine