Surgeons Try Freezing Patients

Inducing hypothermia causes body to shut down
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2010 8:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – Surgeons are about to begin human testing on a bold new technique for treating trauma patients in which they intentionally induce extreme hypothermia, the Daily Telegraph reports. By injecting cold saline solution into the patient’s blood, they can all but shut down the body, reducing brain and organ damage and giving doctors more time to operate.

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The technique, which should also reduce the need for anesthesia or life support machines, brings the body’s temperature down to as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature would usually be fatal, but the extreme cooling puts cells into a state of "suspended animation" that prevents them from producing the toxins that ultimately cause death, explains the Massachusetts surgeon leading the research. “By cooling rapidly, we can convert almost certain death into a 90% survival rate,” he says. (Read more hypothermia stories.)

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