'Suspended animation' helps cheat death - CBS46 News

'Suspended animation' helps cheat death

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Researchers experiment with process to chill a patient's body to buy more time for surgery. (Source: CNN) Researchers experiment with process to chill a patient's body to buy more time for surgery. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) -Medical researchers are experimenting with a process they hope will buy more time to get trauma patients into surgery.

It's called induced hypothermia, or "suspended animation."

The goal is to cool a patient's body down by pumping them with a chilled saline solution to cool the body and ward off potential damage from blood and oxygen loss.

A new clinical trial at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh is testing the process.

"The term kind of makes people think about science fiction. Some people have called this idea suspended animation, and in some sense, that's true, we're basically suspending life, but what we're doing is using science. We're coming up with a new way to try to save people who are dying in front of us. This is not science fiction," said Dr. Samuel Tisherman.

Researchers say if a trauma patient who comes in cardiac arrest, there is less than 1 in 10 of them is going to survive. Some have injuries that could be fix, if they had a few more minutes.

"What we have been working on, we call emergency preservation and resuscitation, which basically means we're trying to stop the clock to buy time for the surgeons, and the way that we're doing that is by using very low levels of hypothermia, because the lower the temperature is, the less the need for oxygen of tissues, particularly the brain and the heart, and by doing that quickly," said Tisherman said. "Our goal is that we can buy time for the surgeon, get the patient to the operating room, and get the bleeding controlled,"

They've modeled patient scenarios with the animals, and decided it's time to try it in patients.

"If a trauma patient comes in, and we're looking right now at just penetrating trauma, so that's gunshot wounds, stab wounds, we do what we normally try to do for them," Tisherman said. "If that doesn't work, then what we'll do is switch to this emergency preservation and resuscitation, or EPR, and that will entail taking a large tube, called a catheter or a cannula, putting it directly into the aorta, and then we pump in a large amount of ice-cold saline solution."

The goal is to use a solution to cool the core of the body, the organs, the brain, the heart, as quickly as possible. Then as soon they're down to the goal temperature, which is around 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, they can quickly get the patient to the operating room.

The trauma surgeon will gain control of the bleeding, and slowly warm them up.

"We think that it will be certainly safe to do this for upwards of 45 minutes to an hour, but from a surgical standpoint, even 45 minutes to an hour is a lot of time to get a lot done," Tisherman said.

Researchers say the patients receiving the treatment would have little chance of survival under normal circumstances.

The Food and Drug Administration is overseeing the trial, and the Department of Defense, which sees potential for treating soldiers in the field, has contributed funding.


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