This is, to put it lightly, some “next level shit:”
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: a mortally injured patient is put into suspended animation so doctors can buy time to close up his wounds and save his life.
But that seemingly improbable scenario is about to become a reality at five centers around the United States where doctors will try to stop the clock on patients who’ve sustained gunshot or knife wounds that were so severe their hearts stopped.
In the past, when efforts to restart the heart failed because so much blood had been lost, these patients would have been declared dead because there was no way to get enough oxygen to the brain before it was irreparably damaged.
Scientists now think that by quickly and dramatically cooling down a trauma patient by replacing blood with cold saline solution, they can send all the cells of the body into slow motion. That would mean the cells would need less oxygen, which would give doctors the time needed to make repairs that would stop the bleeding.
Once repairs are made, blood would be exchanged for the saline solution through a heart-lung bypass machine. This would restore circulation and bring body temperature back up to normal. In animal models, the effect has been quite stunning.
"It’s really fascinating," said Dr. Paul Vespa, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of critical care at the University of California, Los Angeles. "They have basically suspended animation and in an animal model, there’s an amazing recovery."