Hypothermia To Save Lives? Doctors To Try Deep-Chilling Trauma Patients
WASHINGTON — Suspended animation may not be just for sci-fi movies anymore: Trauma surgeons soon will try plunging some critically injured people into a deep chill – cooling their body temperatures as low as 50 degrees – in hopes of saving their lives.
Many trauma patients have injuries that should be fixable but they bleed to death before doctors can patch them up. The new theory: Putting them into extreme hypothermia just might allow them to survive without brain damage for about an hour so surgeons can do their work.
In a high-stakes experiment funded by the Defense Department, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is preparing to test that strategy on a handful of trauma victims who are bleeding so badly from gunshots, stab wounds or similar injuries that their hearts stop beating. Today when that happens, a mere 7 percent of patients survive.
Get cold enough and "you do OK with no blood for a while," says lead researcher Dr. Samuel Tisherman, a University of Pittsburgh critical care specialist. "We think we can buy time. We think it's better than anything else we have at the moment, and could have a significant impact in saving a bunch of patients."
Tisherman calls the rescue attempt "emergency preservation and resuscitation," EPR instead of CPR. His team plans to begin testing it early next year in Pittsburgh and then expanding the study to the University of Maryland in Baltimore. ...