Ice Cold Saline Has Been Used to Rapidly Cool and Suspend Bodies During Surgery

Doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have placed humans in suspended animation and this could enable them to have hours instead of minutes to operate on critical patients. They rapidly cooled a patient’s body down to ten to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 Fahrenheit) by replacing their blood with an ice-cold salt solution. Without cooling the patient would suffer irreversible damage in about five minutes.

University of Maryland School of Medicine faculty researchers at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center are participating in a research study to test whether Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation (EPR) — a new medical procedure that cools the whole body— can improve outcomes for patients who suffer cardiac arrest due to massive blood loss. Any patient arriving at Shock Trauma who suffers a cardiac arrest after a penetrating trauma such as a gunshot or stab wound were eligible to be enrolled in the study. EPR may preserve the body’s organs (specifically the brain and heart) during cardiac arrest and “buy time” for surgeons to find and repair injuries.

Traumatic injuries, like those caused by car accidents or a shooting, are the leading cause of death in people under the age of 45. The main reason for death is losing too much blood. When the body loses a lot of blood there may not be enough blood left in the body for the heart to pump, which can cause the heart to stop beating (cardiac arrest).

EPR involves administering a large amount of cold fluid to cool patients to around 50°F. Doctors then try to find and stop the source of bleeding. A heart-lung bypass machine is used to restore blood flow to vital organs and warm the body back up.

EPR patients would have otherwise died – fewer than 5% generally survive currently.

Hypothermia is…Currently used for cardiac bypass surgery to protect the brain and other organs when blood flow is paused.