Start of suspended animation trials to save lives

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Doctors are ready to use sci-fi techniques by the commencement of suspended animation. This will be achieved by freezing victims of trauma to keep them alive.

This method will be used on ten shooting or stabbing victims who will be expected to die from the wounds inflicted. When there is a patient likely to fit the new procedure, the doctors linked to the project will be paged. There is approximately one such patient per month and they currently have an under-7% chance of survival.

Doctors will commence the procedure by removing the blood of the patient. The body temperature will be lowered to about 10⁰C by pumping cold fluid through a tube which has been placed in the body’s largest artery, the aorta. Once this process has been completed, the patient will be clinically dead.

Doctors will make use of a heart-lung bypass machine to reactivate the blood flow and resuscitate the patient.

The lead surgeon on the trial, Samuel Tisherman, said that they would be suspending life, but do not like to term it as suspended animation as it sounds too much like science fiction. To avoid this, they are calling it emergency preservation and resuscitation.

This procedure will take place at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US.

Since the patients will not be able to provide consent for this procedure, researchers are set to run a publicity campaign which will give potential patients the opportunity to opt out. Locals will have the facility to order bracelets indicating consent.

A comparison of the initial ten patients will be made with ten other patients who were unable to undergo the procedure. This may allow the doctors to refine the technique.

Patients will be cooled down for a few hours only, however doctors hope it will be sufficient to stop the patients from losing too much blood. The method of cooling down sections of a patient’s body to stop the blood flow in order to perform surgery is already used by doctors.

The new technique has been successful on pigs. During experiments, researchers simulated gunshot wounds by the induction of fatal wounds in the pigs and simulating the medical procedure. All the pigs that were not cooled down died from their wounds, while 90% of those that were cooled had a medium level of survival. The pigs that survived showed no long-term cognitive or physical problems.

Chemical reactions slow down at lower temperatures, so cells require less oxygen. Similar effects to these techniques have been noted in certain accidents, such as when skiers or climbers fall into cold water and they enter this state purely by accident.

Image Credit: Zdenko Zivkovic

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