Stone Cold Operators: Experimenting with Freezing Patients Before Surgery

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Image by © Owen Franken/Corbis

Doctors are set to begin the first human trials of a procedure that helps those suffering from trauma while in surgery—by freezing the body before the operation.

The procedure is done by removing the blood from the major vessels around the patient’s heart and injecting a cold saline solution in its place. The solution will induce hypothermia in the patient—bringing the body temperature as low as 10 degrees C—which protects the brain and vital organs while the heart is stopped.

Evidently, this allows doctors more time to perform operations, as well as cutting down on the need for anesthetic and life support.

The treatment, which is being pioneered at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and has proven successful on animals, would give victims of car accidents and gunshot wounds more of a fighting chance of recovering from their trauma. Dr. Hasan Alam, a surgeon from Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Telegraph, “by cooling rapidly in this fashion we can convert almost certain death into a 90 per cent survival rate.” (via the Telegraph)