The idea of suspended animation has always been exclusively related to sci-fi media. When we think of “suspended animation,” we tend to think of games and movies such as Portal 2 or Alien, where characters are placed into a deep state of sleep for very long periods of time.
However, with recent technological advancements, doctors have been able to place a human into suspended animation for the first time. This incredible step allows surgeons to have more time to operate on patients who have suffered a serious injury, which could potentially save several lives.
The first step involves cooling the brain to less than 10C by replacing the blood of the patient with an ice-cold saline solution. The solution is pumped directly into the aorta, the artery that carries blood to the rest of the body.
After the patient has been successfully put into suspended animation, brain activity comes to a partial stop. The heart then stops beating, preventing the patient from bleeding out before and during the operation. The reason why this medical advancement is so important is that it allows doctors to save patients that are almost guaranteed to die. This procedure is most certainly going to be used to save victims of gunshot and stab wounds.
Statistically, victims of shootings and stabbings have less than a 5% chance to survive.
After the procedure, the patient is then resuscitated by warming their blood to 37C and restarting their heart.
Although this procedure is definitely a step in the right direction, there is one big risk that must be acknowledged as a consequence of stopping the heart from beating. Since oxygenated blood is no longer being pumped to the rest of the body, the brain is starved of oxygen which results in irreversible brain damage within mere minutes.
Hopefully, doctors are able to perfect this procedure by late 2020 and put it to good use. Many people do not realize how crucial suspended animation would be in areas of great political conflict such as Syria and Afghanistan. Several civilian lives could be saved in these warzones.