What’s the Latest?
By dramatically cooling down the bodies of trauma patients from the inside, surgeons at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh will be the first to use suspended animation techniques to keep patients alive during critical operations. “A team of surgeons will remove all of the patient’s blood, replacing it with a cold saline solution… This will slow down the body’s metabolic functions, significantly reducing its need for oxygen. … A state of profound hypothermia will be induced, at about 50ºF (10ºC), to provide a ‘prolonged period of cardiac arrest’ after extensive bleeding. In other words, clinical death.”
What’s the Big Idea?
It was twenty years ago that researchers first proposed the idea of rapidly inducing hypothermia to buy time for surgeons whose patients were bleeding out on operating tables. Then in 2000, researcher Peter Rhee successfully tested the suspended animation techniques on pigs. Because patients will not be able to give informed consent, citizens of Pittsburg are asked to opt out of the procedure ahead of time if they wish. If suspended animation technology develops further, it could eventually be used on astronauts, allowing them to complete long space missions with fewer resources. In a state of suspended animation, the body would require very few calories.