Suspended animation is something any science fiction fan is familiar with, but now Professor Samuel Tisherman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine is trying to bring this potentially life-saving concept into the ER.
Officially called “emergency preservation and resuscitation”, or EPR, this process involves rapidly cooling the body down by pumping it full of very cold saline until it reaches 10 to 15 degrees Celsius. This gives surgeons additional time (up to two hours) to repair life-threatening injuries, such as a stab or gunshot wound.
According to an interview in New Scientist, Tisherman and his team have already placed at least one person in this suspended state, calling it “a little surreal” when they first did it. He didn’t elaborate on the survival rate though. He and his team have been given the go-ahead by the US Food and Drug Administration for a human trial in which 10 people will receive EPR and will be compared to 10 people “who would have been eligible for the treatment but for the fact that the correct team wasn’t in the hospital at the time of admittance.” The FDA also allowed the proposed trial to be exempt from requiring patient consent, as the injuries these patients sustained would likely be fatal.
“I want to make clear that we’re not trying to send people off to Saturn,” Tisherman said. “We’re trying to buy ourselves more time to save lives.”