A young man suffering from severe gunshot wounds is rushed to the emergency room.
The patient – who has lost a lot of blood and continues to bleed profusely – goes into cardiac arrest.
Despite the doctors’ best efforts, the young patient bleeds to death.
It’s not an uncommon scenario. Less than 10 percent of trauma patients suffering cardiac arrest survive, even if their injuries can be repaired, according to the Acute Care Research center.
With a bit more time to control the patient’s bleeding, the odds of survival could increase for many trauma victims.
Inducing profound hypothermia might just give doctors the time they need.
More than 20 years ago, Dr. Peter Safar and Col. Ron Bellamy suggested rapidly inducing hypothermia in trauma patients suffering cardiac arrest would buy that extra time to control bleeding.
Preclinical studies at the University of Pittsburgh show reducing body temperature to as low as 50ºF (10ºC) can prolong the period of cardiac arrest, even when a patient has lost most of his blood.
Dr. Safar’s colleague, Dr. Sam Tisherman is now taking this research to the next step, leading a study to explore and test the feasibility and safety of this hypothermia treatment.
The technique is called Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation. The patient’s body temperature is lowered by pumping a large volume of cold fluid through a large tube, called a cannula, which is placed into the aorta, the largest artery in the human body.
Then, to restore the patient’s blood circulation and oxygenation, doctors use a heart-lung bypass machine as part of the resuscitation process.
The study is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, coordinated by the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and will be conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Maryland.
Watch Dr. Tisherman explain the Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation technique and what the new research project will entail.
>>>> Listen to the interview here
Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include: