Surgeons to place trauma patients into suspended animation, between life and death, during extreme surgeries

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(NaturalNews) An unusual life-preservation technique that might sound like the thing of science-fiction cinema has become a reality at one Pennsylvania hospital where some trauma victims who recently suffered from otherwise fatal injuries are now being given a second chance at life. It is known as suspended animation, and some researchers say it could redefine what conventional medicine considers to be irreparable harm.

Typically when a patient arrives at the hospital with a traumatic and life-threatening injury, doctors will attempt to resuscitate that patient while quickly trying to fix the damage. If the injury is extremely severe, requiring more time for surgery, doctors will do the best they can to keep that patient's heart pumping while they work to fix the problem. If the patient's heart does not cooperate, however, then little else can be done to save him, typically resulting in death.

But at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, cutting-edge emergency preservation and resuscitation efforts are providing new hope in scenarios like this. Rather than try to keep the patient alive in order to perform surgery, doctors at the hospital are now experimenting with deliberately putting the patient into a state of suspended animation, in which that patient's blood is drained and replaced with a cold saline solution.

Suspended animation induces temporary death, allowing for later revival

According to, this process stops virtually all cellular activity within the patient's body, allowing physicians more time to take a closer look at the associated injury and perform any necessary surgical procedures. In a best-case scenario, the patient will remain "dead" for up to several hours while this work is being done, and once completed, will have his or her blood returned and be brought back to life.

Tests conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan Hospital on pigs have already been successful in accomplishing this, which to those advancing the idea is evidence enough that it can also work in humans. Based on this, doctors at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital are planning to perform the technique on 10 human patients, comparing the results to 10 other human patients given conventional treatment.

"We've always assumed that you can't bring back the dead," says Samuel Tisherman, the doctor leading the new trial at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. "But it's a matter of when you pickle the cells."

Is suspended animation a taboo pipe dream, or promising technique to save lives?

If the first round of tests goes as planned, Tisherman and his team plan to refine the technique on another 10 patients, after which there should be enough data to safely apply suspended animation protocols to other hospitals across the country. And if the technique is successful in cases of cardiac arrest, Tisherman hopes to use it in other applications as well.

At the same time, performing such trials and bringing the technology to other hospitals could pose some challenges. Besides the fact that neither patients nor their families will be able to give consent to the therapy, given its emergency nature, the concept of draining people's blood and allowing them to die, only to revive them later, may still come with its own taboos.

"We're trying to save lives, not pack people off to Mars," joked Tisherman in an attempt to quell fears about the somewhat strange sci-fi nature of the technology. "Can we go longer than a few hours with no blood flow? I don't know. Maybe years from now someone will have figured out how to do it, but it will certainly take time."

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