How Scientists Used An Icy Solution To Help Save Lives

Sudden Cardiac Arrest
African-Americans face a much higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest compared to Caucasians. REUTERS

Recently, a trial in the United States succeeded in placing humans in suspended animation for the first time ever in history, marking a new first in the field of medicine and the business of saving lives. Depicted in sci-fi movies and other forms of media, the approach involves cooling people who are suffering from catastrophic injuries to give medical experts such as doctors and surgeons additional time to make sure they pull through from the condition and make it out alive.

Formally known as emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR), the technique itself is now being applied at the University of Maryland Medical Center, located in Baltimore, to patients who arrive the hospital suffering from cardiac arrest. Usually, when the cardiac arrest is caused by a gunshot or a stab wound (or anything else that can cause acute trauma), the patient is left with a few minutes to get operated on with little chance of survival. This is because in these circumstances, the patient may have already lost a lot of blood and their heart is likely not beating anymore.

With EPR, doctors are given two hours to work on the injuries before the person’s heart is restarted. This works by quickly cooling the person to somewhere around 10 to 15°C  (from the normal body temp of 37 °C) . Furthermore, the patient’s blood is also completely replaced with ice-cold saline to replace the lack of fluid in their body. Their brain activity then discontinues from here, and they are then moved into surgery.

Suspended Animation

According to the team behind the technique, EPR works by cooling the body and brain’s temperatures, which then brings all cell chemical reactions to almost a near-stop, which requires less oxygen, usually carried by blood all over our bodies.

"We're trying to thread that fine line between doing something to someone that's going to do well anyway, or doing something to somebody that's going to die no matter what we do," said Samuel Tisherman from University of Maryland School of Medicine, who led the research.

The trial’s result will be announced at the end of 2020.

The Body Electric: Lightning Strikes May Cause Cardiac Arrest, Cerebral Hypoxia Lightning strikes can have various physical effects on the human body, from cardiac arrest to cerebral hypoxia. Youtube Sudden Cardiac Arrest African-Americans face a much higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest compared to Caucasians. REUTERS