There is now a new cardiac arrest treatment which keeps cardiac arrest sufferers alive. This treatment does not involve cardiac arrest treatment drugs. Instead, it involves cooling the bodies of cardiac arrest patients to below the normal temperature and then slowly reheat them. This cardiac arrest treatment method is known as “therapeutic hypothermia”.
The therapeutic hypothermia treatment more than triples cardiac arrest sufferers’ chances of surviving. It also reduces the risk of brain damage, a common problem among those who live. This treatment is already used in Australia. The survival rate of a cardiac arrest is currently less than 3 percent.
First, the patient’s body is rapidly cooled to between 32 degrees Celsius and 24 degrees Celsius. This is done either by wrapping large cooling-gel pads around the torso and legs or by pumping cool saline into a catheter that is inserted into the body.
The temperature is then maintained for 24 hours while the patient is put into a medically induced coma. After that, the body is gradually warmed to the normal 36.5 degrees Celsius. The patient usually wakes up after one or two days.
Bringing the temperature down helps to save barely alive cells including brain cells. When oxygen is cut off during a cardiac arrest, a chain reaction occurs which leads to cell death. The area of damage may be extensive, and the damage to organs including the brain becomes permanent. In fact, most cardiac arrest survivors who are given the conventional cardiac arrest treatment in hospitals end up in a coma or vegetative state.
However, when cells are cooled, they do not need as much oxygen, therefore damage to the brain and body due to oxygen deprivation is significantly reduced. Studies have shown that patients who received the hypothermia treatment woke up with minimal brain damage.
While the hypothermia treatment seems like a miracle cardiac arrest treatment, not everyone is suitable. Patients need to have a stable pulse and blood pressure to be eligible. They also have to be unresponsive after being revived. The cause of the cardiac arrest should not be a traumatic event, such as a car crash, as the patient is likely to have other injuries.
It is also important to note that therapeutic hypothermia only preserves cells which are still alive. Cells which have already died will not be revived.