Trials set for body chilling anaesthesia

A technique for chilling trauma patients before surgery will now help save them from certain death.

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2010, 21:21 PM IST

London: A technique for chilling the trauma patients before surgery will now help save them from certain death, says a new research.
The ground-breaking method will shut down their bodies entirely during major surgery, giving doctors more time to perform operations.The technique will also help reduce brain damage while the patient`s heart is not beating, besides cutting down the need for anaesthetic and life-support machines.

Researchers are about to begin the first human trials of the technique, which involves replacing a patient`s blood with a cold solution to rapidly chill body temperatures, reports the Telegraph.

The cold treatment, which is being developed at the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, US, and is featured in a BBC documentary, will see patient`s body being cooled to as low as 10 degrees Celcius.
The normal human body temperature is 37 degrees Celcius and usually humans quickly die if the core body temperature drops below 22 degrees Celcius.

Hasan Alam, who is leading the research at the Massachusetts General Hospital, said that often emergency patients suffering from gunshot wounds, stabbings and car accidents are on the brink of death anyway.

Hence, by cooling their bodies so extensively it can protect their brain and organs from damage.

Alam said trials of the technique in animals had shown it to be hugely successful.
He said, "If you drop the body`s core temperature and brain temperature down to 15 degrees Celcius or 10 degrees Celcius, you are talking about 60 minutes and even 190 minutes of protection.”

"By cooling rapidly in this fashion we can convert almost certain death into a 90 percent survival rate."

Alam and his team are now preparing to use their life-saving technique on human patients for the first time.This will involve connecting up a pump to the major blood vessels around the heart to remove the warm blood in the body and replace it with cold saline solution.

This allows them to cool the body by around 2 degrees Celcius every minute, rapidly causing the body`s tissues to shut down.At normal body temperatures, brain death typically occurs in around four or five minutes as, at low oxygen levels, cells start to produce toxins that ultimately kill them.

By cooling the body so much, the cells are essentially put into a state of suspended animation that prevents this from happening.

Kevin Fong, anaesthetist at the University College, London, who presents the BBC programme said: "In a trauma ward you only have a few minutes to make a repair.

"By inducing hypothermia in trauma patients you can extend that and giving more of an opportunity for survival than was there before."

He added: "These techniques are essentially taking people to the brink of death and then bringing them back to life."

A BBC "Two Horizon" documentary on Dr Alam`s research also highlights a similar technique already being used on heart patients at the Yale New Haven Hospital in southern Connecticut.

IANS