It’s something straight out of science fiction, freezing someone to prolong their life. Soon enough, though, it’ll actually be real. Later this month, surgeons at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh will try to suspend human life.
The FDA-approved study will consist of reducing the subject’s body temperature to 10 degrees Celsius/50 degrees Fahrenheit by inserting a cannula into the aorta and flushing cold saline into the system. This will slow the flow of blood, which will then prevent the body from bleeding out; along with slowing other biological processes.
This is a state of hypothermia and can only be sustained by the body for about two hours. This isn’t quite as dramatic as it is shown in science fiction, but it could potentially provide a good amount of time for surgeons to perform emergency surgery.
This procedure was first tried by Peter Rhee in 2000 with 40 pigs with the results being published in 2006.
The team will use this technique on 10 trauma patients whose injuries would be fatal otherwise. After these first group of patients, and after being compared to 10 patients who did not receive the technique, the technique will be analyzed and refined.
Something like this is a very futuristic technique that could prove to be very good for surgeons, giving them more time to conduct emergency surgeries. It’ll be a few years until this technique can spread to other hospitals and other teams, but hopefully when it does, suspended animation could be a refined and life-saving practice.