Have you ever experienced a loved one or a person close to you in a near-death situation? Wouldn’t you consider any means just to revive and save the life of that person? Now that developments in science are on peak, another method would have made it possible to revive people even hours after their heart has stopped beating and they are declared dead.
For the first time ever, the newest procedure will be carried out by surgeons at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh by placing them in a state of “suspended animation” where they are neither dead nor alive. It’s hoped that this extraordinary procedure will give surgeons the time to carry out life-saving operations on individuals with fatal knife and gunshot wounds who would otherwise have bled to death.
Samuel Tisherman, the surgeon leading the trial, told New Scientist that they do not want the method to be called such “suspended animation” rather call it as emergency preservation and resuscitation.
“We are suspending life, but we don’t like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction,” he said. “So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.”
[quote_right]“We are suspending life, but we don’t like to call it suspended animation… We call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.”[/quote_right]
However, UPMC Presbyterian doctors will first need the right patient: someone suffering from cardiac arrest after an injury like a gunshot wound, who doesn’t respond to attempts to restart their heart. Saline solution will then be pumped to their heart and brain, removing all the blood from a patient’s body. Doing so speedily cools the body down to temperatures as low as 10°C and is similar to inducing hypothermia.
At the time of operation, the patient will be clinically dead, with no blood in the body, no brain activity, and no breathing. This is made possible by a process called anaerobic glycolysis which allows the cell to survive for hours until doctors begin to reintroduce blood to their cardiovascular system, slowly raising their body temperature back to a normal 37°C.
If all goes well, the heart should restart slowly, but patients could need a jumpstart.
Tried and tested
Previous trials of exactly this sort of suspended animation were carried out on pigs by Dr. Hasam Alam back in 2002, with the animals sedated before a massive haemorrhage was artificially induced. The pigs’ hearts usually restarted on their own (although some needed to be shocked back to life) and scientists reported no loss of cognitive or physical function.
Peter Rhee, a surgeon who was involved in developing the technique, told New Scientist “After we did those experiments, the definition of ‘dead’ changed.”
[quote_right]”…the definition of ‘dead’ changed.”[/quote_right]
But trying this technique in humans is controversial: since the participants will be coming from the emergency room, neither the patient nor the family can give consent.
According to US Food and Drug Administration, they are letting the trial happen because these patients are not likely to survive their injuries. It will first be tested on ten patients and compared to another ten patients who were not treated in the same way. The team will continue in batches of ten until there is enough data to analyze.