Now, new research is questioning that conventional wisdom, and is even wondering if the process of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) could actually be leading to a quicker death. Hold on to your hat and read on.
The old thinking was that cells of the body would begin to die within four or five minutes of the stoppage of oxygen and nutrients coming to them through blood. The quicker a heart can be restarted and breathing can begin, the better the chances were for a body to go on living.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have been studying heart cells under microscopes. What they’ve found throws all that stuff up into the air. What they found was that cells cut off from their lifeline of blood died hours later, not minutes.
Now here’s the real freaky part. The researchers think that the cells die faster when their oxygen supply is quickly returned.
So the quick surge of oxygen and energy into the body may be just the wrong thing do to someone whose breathing and blood flow have stopped. These researchers are thinking that hypothermia – extreme cold temperatures bringing the body’s core temperature to 33 degrees C – might be a better option. Then medical professionals would have time to adjust the blood chemistry for a safe, gradual return of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, keeping them alive.
University of California researchers have tried a slightly different approach of treatment at four hospitals. Cardiac patients received a blood infusion that would keep their hearts in a state of suspended animation. They were on a heart-lung device to maintain blood flow to the brain until the heart could be slowly restarted. The tests were conducted in just 34 patients, but 80 percent were discharged from a hospital okay. Under the old methods, the survival rate is 15 percent.
A lot more research has to be done, but the findings do shake up what we’ve traditionally thought about how to keep people living. Share your thoughts on this topic with other Science Buzz readers here.