“Good news, everyone!” and “WELCOME TO THE WOOOORLD OF TOMORROW!” It’s not often that two Futurama quotes fit a story so perfectly, so you must forgive me for shamelessly forcing them both in. It’s an exciting day for fans of not dying from gruesome body wounds! Doctors at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh are about to begin human trials on suspended animation. The technique should give surgeons more time to save patients from gunshot and stab wounds that would normally prove fatal.
The medical community refer to it as “emergency preservation and resuscitation,” but we know it as suspended animation. The process isn’t as difficult as you would think; the patient’s body temperature is lowered to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, while their blood is slowly drained and replaced with a cold saline solution. This technically kills the patient, as all cellular activity halts. However, these patients can be brought back to life by bringing their body temperatures back to normal, and putting the blood back into their bodies.
Suspended animation was first successfully tested back in 2002 at the University of Michigan Hospital. A pig was drugged, and was given a massive hemorrhage to simulate a gunshot wound. The pig’s body was cooled, its blood was replaced, and the hemorrhage was surgically repaired. When they warmed the pig and replaced the saline solution, its heart began to beat on its own. The pig recovered fully, and suffered no permanent physical or cognitive damage despite the fact that it had been dead for a few hours.
Now, it’s our turn. UPMC Presbyterian Hospital doctors will use the process on patients with traumatic injuries, who don’t respond to traditional resuscitation techniques. Patients with these injuries have an extremely high mortality rate, and there are currently no alternative treatments for them. For that reason, surgeons don’t need to gain patients’ consent to put them into suspended animation. This experimental procedure will be used on ten patients, and the results will be compared to ten patients who didn’t receive the treatment. Surgeons will refine the treatment based on those results, and test it on ten more patients. The data acquired in those twenty trials will help doctors decide if the treatment can be rolled out to more hospitals.
Before the Disney Corporation decides to thaw Walt’s head out and rush it to Pittsburgh, I should let you know that there are some limitations to the technique. The procedure only works when it is used before or slightly after the patient passes. It won’t work on someone who has been dead for a few hours. Also, the patient can only be revived after a few hours of suspended animation. No 1,000 year trips to the future for us. Sorry, guys. It’s not looking good for those of us with boneitis.
Via The Escapist