Just When You Thought You Would Never See Any Of That Stuff From Science Fiction Novels...

Via the New Scientist

NEITHER dead or alive, knife-wound or gunshot victims will be cooled down and placed in suspended animation later this month, as a groundbreaking emergency technique is tested out for the first time....

The technique involves replacing all of a patient's blood with a cold saline solution, which rapidly cools the body and stops almost all cellular activity. "If a patient comes to us two hours after dying you can't bring them back to life. But if they're dying and you suspend them, you have a chance to bring them back after their structural problems have been fixed," says surgeon Peter Rhee at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who helped develop the technique.

The benefits of cooling, or induced hypothermia, have been known for decades. At normal body temperature – around 37 °C – cells need a regular oxygen supply to produce energy. When the heart stops beating, blood no longer carries oxygen to cells. Without oxygen the brain can only survive for about 5 minutes before the damage is irreversible.

However, at lower temperatures, cells need less oxygen because all chemical reactions slow down. This explains why people who fall into icy lakes can sometimes be revived more than half an hour after they have stopped breathing.

via Alex Tabarrok


  1. W.C. Taqiyya:

    Pretty cool stuff.

  2. NL7:

    When I read this at MR, I had to think for a second whether it was already April 1st.

  3. Daublin:

    Very cool. Also, very very icky.

    "The first step is to flush cold saline through the heart and up to the brain – the areas most vulnerable to low oxygen. To do this, the lower region of their heart must be clamped and a catheter placed into the aorta – the largest artery in the body – to carry the saline."

    Egads that sounds... like a last resort. As well, a patient who dies from this--which is still going to be a common case--is going to look like a hacked up side of beef from the butcher.

    This procedure would be good to put on the list for people that carry living wills. Interestingly, in this case, the typical patient is going to be quite young, unlike most cases where a living will would apply.

    "Instead, they may be producing energy through what's called anaerobic glycolysis. At normal body temperatures this can sustain cells for about 2 minutes. At low temperatures, however, glycolysis rates are so low that cells can survive for hours."

    I have to wonder if they couldn't use something other than pure saline, so as to provide an energy boost.

    Either way, this procedure changes you from suffocating--which already sucks--to slowly suffocating over a course of hours. Mama mia, I hope they don't remember any of it or they might rather have died.

  4. joshv:

    "Either way, this procedure changes you from suffocating--which already sucks--to slowly suffocating over a course of hours. Mama mia, I hope they don't remember any of it or they might rather have died."

    That's hours they have to repair the massive bleed in your liver or your femoral artery. I'd imagine you'd be quite unconscious at those levels of brain metabolism.

  5. MingoV:

    The only people I know of who 'drowned' in icy water for 30 minutes and were revived with full brain function were infants or young toddlers. They're small, so their brains cool faster. Their brains are more 'plastic' which means they can grow nerves to replace damaged areas. Adults may be revived after 30 minutes in ice water, but they will have brain damage that cannot be repaired.

  6. Mondak:

    To be fair, that is why they are replacing the blood with cold water. So that their brains can cool as fast or faster than an infant or child.

  7. marque2:

    Turns out the brain cells die very slowly from suffocation less than 4% per hour - when oxygen is suddenly returned the oxygen starved brain cells self destruct. Freezing the brain and restoring O2 slowly will prevent the cells from dying when the O2 returns.

  8. irandom419:

    Hopefully, it won't be bringing back more violent criminals. I can't find the article, but we actually don't start to rot until 4 hours after death. The problem is that when a cell is deprived of oxygen, it thinks it is cancerous and will commit suicide, apoptosis, for several hours after revival.

    "Between 1990 and 1994, 75% of all homicide victims age 21 and younger in the city of Boston had a prior criminal record."

  9. sch:

    This is an expansion of the idea of cooling off cardiac arrest survivors for a day or two and then slowly rewarming them. Sort of works but fairly high tech and expensive. This will
    be limited to high zoot tertiary care centers with money to burn, as it were. One big problem with trauma medicine/surgery is that historically people needing such care tend not
    to be insured, ie possession of a Blue Cross card implies a fairly settled lifestyle not conducive to being shot or stabbed. This is one of the reasons trauma centers are evaporating.
    The ACA may not improve this, especially if the category of people at risk for GSW/stabbings ignores the ACA and isn't concerned about what the IRS will do to their putative
    refunds. There is a very small interval in which to elect to cool someone down and the procedures and methods needed are time consuming. It is not easy to drop a 200# persons
    core temp from 98.6 to 60F much less 40F. Sounds like $100K anteup costs and $50k/day maintenance. Be interesting to see where an ACA plan will fit.

  10. obloodyhell:

    Just When You Thought You Would Never See Any Of That Stuff From Science Fiction Novels...

    You're kidding, right? I've got a first generation Star Trek™ brand tricorder in my pocket. It cost me about 25 hours of work income, along with a regular monthly payment of 4 hours of work income for access to the "ship's computer".

    I'm thinking of getting a first generation Star Trek™ brand replicator. That would cost me about 50-75 hours of work income.

    The SF days are already HERE, Jack!! :-D

    I expect I might just see an FTL in my lifetime...

  11. obloodyhell:

    WHAT? WHAT? Are you saying that Teh One is not delivering on his promise to make equal health care available for all of us!?!??


  12. markm:

    I'd be cautious about believing this. Long ago, I decided that "New Scientist" is the "National Enquirer" of science reporting.