With an ever-aging population, our elders face a devious specter: cardiac arrest, two harmless words that, once united, give terror. In this country alone, there is a heart attack every seven minutes totaling 16,000 victims each year. As soon as the heart stops, the lack of oxygen in the brain creates havoc by causing the death of millions of neurons. At this point, if no action is taken, the chances of survival diminish every second. Although in some cases the heart may start beating, too often the irreversible damage to the brain only allows a return to a vegetative life. When it comes to strokes and Brain Injury then this is something that you will have to consider now.
In this country, 40 to 50,000 people die prematurely each year from cardiac arrest. A situation that roughly corresponds to a cardiac arrest every 10 minutes and that is ten times more common than deaths by a road accidents.
Hypothermia could help
In a recently published article written, a doctoral student in co-supervising medical engineering, a promising method for cooling the human body in a super-fast manner by administering a cold liquid to the lungs is described. Body cooling, defined as therapeutic hypothermia, is a recognized technique for preventing brain damage following cardiac arrest. The effects are even more beneficial when it is induced quickly. Unfortunately, humans are basically designed to combat heat loss, so it goes without saying that it is not easy to lower the temperature. The techniques currently used are slow and difficult to control. So what to do when you find yourself in a situation where you must induce hypothermia against the will of the body, against its mechanisms and time is running out?
Design of the Medical Product
It is with this mandate that the team designed and manufactured a fluid respirator. There is a device that supports breathing with a liquid rather than with air. By controlling the temperature of the patient, it is then used to induce therapeutic hypothermia ultra-fast, accurate and safe. This concept, apparently unorthodox, makes sense when you know that the used liquid, a perfluoro-carbon, can carry nearly 15 times more oxygen than water and 1600 times more heat than air. It is, therefore, the device that takes care of introducing the liquid that brings oxygen into the lungs while removing the carbon dioxide during expiration. The exchange surface between the pulmonary alveoli and the blood equals a tennis court, which makes the lung a real gas and heat exchanger. Thus, like a radiator, it is possible to control the body temperature by the temperature of the liquid that is inserted in it. It is therefore within five minutes that we arrive at hypothermia, unlike traditional techniques that require hours.
More organ transplants possible
In addition to saving lives through direct action, hypothermia has an indirect benefit that is less well known but just as important. Indeed, the preservation of the organs by the cold as described by the model could allow the conservation and the transplantation of more organs. As patient waiting times increase, any technique to increase the number of donations available is welcome. Thus the potential impact of therapeutic hypothermia induced by fluid ventilation is undeniable. The research is going well and we should see the first human trials before the next decade, which is very encouraging. In the meantime, the best way to prevent cardiac arrest is to eat healthily and exercise.