- medical alert March 28
It sounds like something straight out of a futuristic movie: A patient comes into an emergency room with a severe gunshot wound, having less than a 7 percent chance of survival. To buy time for an extensive surgery, doctors quickly replace his blood with a cold saline solution that forces hypothermia and stops most cellular activity. Now that his body is sufficiently cooled and there is no breathing or brain activity, the patient isn't alive, but he's also not dead. He's in suspended animation — and this technique will soon be tried for the first time at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.
"We are suspending life, but we don't like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction," Samuel Tisherman, the surgeon leading the Pittsburgh trial, tells New Scientist. "So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation." Currently, the technique should buy the doctors just a few hours, but that period of suspended animation could be enough to save a life.
One of the surgeons who helped develop this method, Peter Rhee from the University of Arizona in Tucson, says he strongly believes in the power of suspended animation after seeing pigs make a full recovery in trials. "After we did these experiments, the definition of 'dead' changed," he tells New Scientist. "Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It's frustrating to know there's a solution." Read more at New Scientist.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 10 things you need to know today: September 21, 2014
- How U2 became the new Nickelback
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- Save the world... by changing how you pee
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
Subscribe to the Week