Suspended animation has been the subject of science fiction for decades. Now, according to Business Insider, some researchers at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are preparing to put the process to a practical test.
Here is how it would work:
“1. Patients qualifying for this human trial must be victims of penetrating wounds — which means gunshot wounds and stab wounds — who suffer cardiac arrest and have lost their pulse. Statistically, these patients have only a 7 percent chance of being resuscitated. Theoretically, they’ll have lost their pulse and about 50 percent of their blood already. Their chest will likely already be open, following attempts to perform open-chest CPR, standard procedure for trauma patients with cardiac arrest.
“2. A large tube is placed directly in the aorta.
“3. Cold saline solution is pumped through the heart and towards the brain first, since the brain is the most vulnerable organ and can only survive 4 to 5 minutes without oxygen.
“4. The solution is then pumped to the rest of the body, thus emptying the remaining blood volume of the patient. The patient now has no blood and no brain activity.
“5. The current technique allows doctors around two hours to repair the trauma injuries. Then the saline solution is replaced with blood again. If the patient’s heart does not start on its own after blood is pumped, doctors will resuscitate the patient with a heart-lung bypass machine.”
The UPMC Presbyterian Hospital team are going to try the technique on gun shot and stabbing victims who have gone into cardiac arrest and have little or no hope of being revived. The idea is that the suspended animation technique will give a trauma team up to two hours to repair the damage. At that point the patient can be revived.
The procedure seems to be similar to a deep hypothermic circulatory arrest or standstill procedure that is used to treat patients who require surgical treatment of giant cerebral aneurysms, a lesion of the brain that would otherwise be untreatable. But it looks like that this technique is far more challenging and, if it works, more far reaching in its implications.
Suspended animation has been a topic of science fiction for decades. It is used to allow astronauts to “sleep” during years long space voyages to avoid having to take food, water, and air that would be necessary to sustain an awake person. Something like the technique is being used by people who have incurable diseases in the hopes that their bodies will be preserved until a time when their ailments can be cured.
Even if the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital succeeds, it will likely be a while before it has any practical application outside a trauma room. But it looks like yet another science fiction technology is getting ready to become science fact,