Suspended animation human trials to begin for wounded patients

BY Justin Scuiletti  May 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM EST

Photo by Flickr user Army Medicine

Photo by Flickr user Army Medicine

Victims of knife and gunshot wounds will be among the first humans ever to be placed into “suspended animation,” in an effort to buy more time to save their lives.

The process, which is being called “emergency preservation and resuscitation,” replaces all of a patient’s blood with a cold saline solution in order to induce hypothermia and stop almost all cellular activity in the body. In the cooler body temperature, cells require less oxygen and processes slow down to give surgeons more time — up to four hours — to fix potentially fatal damage.

“If a patient comes to us two hours after dying you can’t bring them back to life,” Peter Rhee, one of the surgeons who helped develop the technique, told New Scientist. “But if they’re dying and you suspend them, you have a chance to bring them back after their structural problems have been fixed.”

The first ever human trials will be performed on 10 wounded patients by surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital in Pennsylvania. The results will be compared to 10 other patients with similar injuries who can not be treated with the experimental technique due to the team not being available. Surgeons then hope to keep repeating the trials until they have enough data to examine.