A new medical technique developed at Pittsburgh’s UPMC Presbyterian Hospital that suspends trauma patients in a state between life and death to buy surgeons more time to operate on injuries has now been approved for trials and is expected to be tested on 10 people, according to a report by New Scientist Magazine.
“We are suspending life, but we don’t like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction,” Samuel Tisherman, a surgeon at the hospital is leading the trial said in the New Scientist report. “So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.”
Severe blood loss causes traumatic injury patients to lapse into cardiac arrest. The patient dies after the heart stops delivering oxygen and nutrients to the body.
The procedure slows the death of knife-wound and gunshot victims by cooling the body. The new method involves clamping the heart’s ventricles while a cool saline solution is fed into the aorta via a catheter. As the heart pumps, the patient’s blood is placed with the cooled solution, dropping the body to 10 °C into a state of hypothermia where almost no oxygen-consuming metabolic reactions happen.
While normal body temperatures can only sustain cells for around two minutes, cells can survive for hours at lower temperatures, giving surgeons up to two hours to fix what would otherwise be life-threatening injuries. After all necessary procedures, the patient’s body is then refilled with blood, returning the body slowly back to normal temperature.