Doctors have put in a state of suspended animation for the first time in a groundbreaking trial that aims to buy more time for surgeons to save seriously injured patients.
replacing the patient's blood with ice-cold saline solution.
Known formally as emergency preservation and resuscitation, or EPR, the procedure is being trialled on who sustains Such catastrophic injuries that they are in danger of bleeding to death and who suffer from a heart attack. The patients, who are victims of stabbings or shootings, usually have a chance of survival.
Samuel Tisherman, of the University of Maryland, in Baltimore, described the trial at a recent symposium held by the New York Academy of Sciences. He said at least one patient had had the procedure but did not elaborate on that patient. The first time the team performed the process was "a little surreal," New Scientist magazine.
Rapid cooling of the trauma victim is designed to reduce brain activity to a near standstill and to slow the patient's physiology extra minutes, perhaps more than an hour, to operate. Once the patient's injuries have been treated, they are warmed up and resuscitated.
One of the problems with these patients is often left with them.
The trial is about to endure the death of the patient.
Previous studies have shown that EPR can help save injured pigs, but it is not successful all the time. "We felt it was time to take it to our patients," Tisherman told New Scientist, which was the first to report on the work. "Now we are doing it and we are learning a lot as we move forward with the trial.
Though Tisherman's talk was entitled Suspended Animation, he said he was not exploring ways to preserve astronauts on deep space missions. "Saturn," he told New Scientist.
Nasa considers that full-on hibernation for interstellar travel is still a distant prospect. The US Space Agency is investigating ways of putting astronauts into a torpor, so reducing their metabolism for extended periods.
Kevin Fong, a consultant anesthetist at University College, London, and the author of Extremes: Life, Death, and Limits of the Human Body, said: "Emergency preservation and resuscitation is an attempt to protect a patient by dramatically dropping their body temperature and forcing their physiology into slow motion.
"The cardiothoracic surgeons have been moving forward into the emergency department or maybe even out into the field. In emergency medicine we are always trying to blur the line between life and certain death, to create something that looks like hope where none previously existed. If EPR works, it'll be a game changer. "