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Cooling Patients’ Bodies to Save Lives

arctic sunMEDFORD, Ore. — “Suspended Animation” may sound like something out of science fiction, but it could be a reality to treat trauma victims.

The process involves cooling patients’ bodies to as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit to slow down blood flow to give doctors more time to save a life. Trials are currently under way in Pennsylvania to see how the process helps trauma victims and are still in the early stages, but local doctors use a similar process for heart attacks.

Doctors at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center use what’s called “cooling therapy,” where a patient’s temperature is cooled to 91 degrees Fahrenheit using a special machine and cooled vest. That slows down blood flow, which mean cells use less oxygen and slow down body functions. If a patient has a heart attack, the method is used to protect the brain, and prevent it from dying quickly.

“It’s a cascading effect, that is, the brain dies, it gets worse and worse and worse,” said Sarah Carlyle of Asante. “So this therapy is supposed to slow that process down and provide protection for the brain.”

Asante has had the Arctic Sun cooling system for about 10 years.