Novel trial implements suspended animation in humans

Maud Webster on a groundbreaking trial that aims to put humans in suspended animation during emergency conditions

Maud Webster
10th December 2019
Medical professionals have taken CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] up a notch in a groundbreaking trial which sees the first use of EPR [emergency preservation and resuscitation], whereby patients are put into a state of suspended animation to ensure more time for them to be treated. 

Used in cases of people who are at danger of bleeding to death, or have just suffered a heart attack, EPR involves quickly cooling the brain to less than 10 degrees celcius, replacing blood by a freezing saline solution. This is usually pumped straight to the aorta, the main artery which carries blood between the heart to the rest of the body. 

After the patient’s heart has ceased to beat, the surgeon has time to operate on the patient before warming their blood back up to 37 degrees celcius. In theory, the surgeon could be given up to an hour longer to perform the operation before the patient is revived.

Patients who have been subject to this new medical discovery have so far mainly been victims of stabbings or shootings, who normally are only projected a 5% chance of survival due to blood loss. 

One of the aims of the trial, as detailed at a symposium at the New York Academy of Sciences earlier this year, is to reduce the amount of brain damage patients are usually left with following such serious injuries.

After describing the trial, Samuel Tisherman [the University of Maryland] said the trial had been tried on at least one patient so far, but did not elaborate on whether that patient, or any others, had survived. He commented that the first time he saw it attempted, it felt “very surreal”.

Full results of the trial are not expected until late 2020, at which point 20 patients will have been subject to the procedure.

Those conducting the trial will compare the chances of brain damage as a result of the procedure as well as the injuries originally suffered. 

Another complication can be the damaged sustained to blood cells as a result of EPR.

Overall, the trial sounds promising and it’ll be exciting to follow the results of the trial when they are released next year.

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AUTHOR: Maud Webster
she/they | third year architecture & urban planning student @ newcastle | co-head of culture for the 21/21 academic year

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