FRIDAY, Nov. 14, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. government scientists say they have developed a technology that can rapidly send an icy slush directly into the body to cool and to protect specific organs during certain health emergencies.
The "ice slurry" can be pumped easily into the body through a small intravenous catheter directly into a patient's bloodstream. This cooling effect slows the demand for oxygen by the brain and other organs, giving doctors added time to diagnose and treat critical emergency cases or protect the heart, brain, kidneys and spinal cord in certain surgeries.
The developers, a team of scientists in the Nuclear Engineering Division at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, in conjunction with others from the University of Chicago, plan to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for using the technology in human trials. They have already successfully used the ice slurry in kidney surgeries conducted on large animals.
"Current medical guidance says that if you want to save the brain, you have to lower its temperature by four or five degrees Celsius within five to 10 minutes of cardiac arrest if paramedics can't restart the heart," engineer Ken Kasza, who led the development of the slurry production and delivery technology, said in a news release from the laboratory. "For the first time, we have a means of attaining the necessary temperature in that short span of time."
During a cardiac arrest, for example, brain cells start to die in just minutes without oxygen from blood being pumped through the body. Within 10 to 20 minutes, the brain is dead.
Using the slurry technique for cardiac victims, the scientists said, would require the slurry to be delivered to the lungs through an endotracheal tube. Chest compressions could then be done to force blood through the cold lungs. From there, the chilled blood would pass through the carotid arteries and into the brain, cooling it rapidly.
This method would take only a few minutes while conventional cooling techniques, such as ice baths and cooling jackets, could take two hours to achieve the same effect. Also, the slurry's ability to target selective organs cuts the risk of secondary adverse effects including shivering and possible arrhythmia, Kasza said.
Minimally invasive laparoscopic kidney surgery, cardiovascular surgery and surgeries that would otherwise risk neurological damage to the brain and spine are considered possible situations for the ice slurry to be used.
"In the emergency and surgical situations that we're dealing with, time frequently is the most valuable resource we have," Kasza said. "By understanding the complex interactions between the slurry and the vulnerable organs, we can optimally induce protective cooling and save lives."
The American Heart Association has more about recognizing a cardiac arrest.