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www.wmfd.com - Medical researchers are experimenting with a process they hope will buy more time to get trauma patients into surgery and it's called induced hypothermia, or "suspended animation."

   
 
 
Cheating Death Through Suspended Animation

Story By: Larry Stine

 

 

 
 
 
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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. Here's a look at a new clinical trial at U-P-M-C Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh 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," says Dr. Samuel A. Ticherman, professor at the University of Maryland Medical Center's Shock Trauma Center. "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. Right now, if we have a trauma patient who comes in in cardiac arrest, we know that less than one in 10 of them is going to survive. "And we've all see people that it turns out they have injuries that we could fix, if we just had a few more minutes," Dr. Tisherman added. "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, our goal is that we can buy time for the surgeon, get the patient to the operating room, and get the bleeding controlled. "We came to a point where we've modeled patient scenarios as best we can with the animals, and we decided it's time that we try this in patients," says Dr. Tisherman. "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. "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," Dr. Tisherman says. "The goal is to use this solution to cool the core of the body, the organs, the brain, the heart, as quickly as possible, and then, as soon as we get them down to the goal temperature, which is around 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, we quickly get them to the operating room, the trauma surgeon will get control of the bleeding, and then we'll 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." 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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