Surgeons in Pennsylvania, US, are preparing to suspend the lives of 10 patients who arrive in an emergency ward with a less than 7% chance of survival.
They don’t want to call it “suspended animation” due to connotations with science fiction. They’d prefer “emergency preservation and resuscitation”.
But the idea is the same – buy time by rapidly inducing hypothermia in an effort to control bleeding and keep patients alive during critical operations.
The Pennsylvania team say they can expect roughly one patient a month through the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh which would not normally survive an operation, most often a car accident, shooting or stabbing victim.
Pittsburgh residents have to opt out of the program, called the Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation for Cardiac Arrest from Trauma (EPR-CAT), as patients aren’t likely to be in any state to give doctors informed consent.
New Scientist reports the patient’s blood is removed and replaced with a cold saline, which slows down metabolism and reduces the body’s need for oxygen.
Hypothermia is induced at 10C, which triggers a “prolonged period of cardiac arrest”. The patient is resuscitated with a heart-lung bypass machine.
Current technology only allows a human body to survive the process for a few hours, so it all sounds pretty hairy, but trials on pigs have produced positive results since 2000.
According to report on that study in C|Net:
All of the control pigs, whose body temperature was left alone, died. The pigs who were resuscitated at a medium speed demonstrated a 90 percent survival rate, although some of their hearts had to be given a jump start. Afterwards, the pigs demonstrated no physical or cognitive impairment.
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