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Surgery Techniques - "Ice Slurry"

written by: Daniel Barros • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 11/29/2008

Ever wondered how doctors are able to significantly lower a person's body temperature? Find out inside how things are changing for this important procedure

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    Time is on Your Side

    Time is something that proves to be a fickle master for doctors and for patients. Diagnoses cannot happen in minutes, while death can come within a matter of seconds. This is the primary reason that doctors have developed new ways of slowing down activity in the body to buy them more time to understand the condition effectively and to treat it.

    The body revolves around heat - it's really what keeps you and I at such a lovely homeostatic balance. The body gives off heat, but as long as our insides stay warm, we'll be perfectly fine. However, the optimal body temperature also just happens to be the optimal temperature at which a person dying has the smallest amount of time to live. Let's say a patient goes into cardiac arrest. Conventional wisdom on the subject is that after about 10 minutes, if the heart cannot be restarted, you need to start cooling the body anywhere from 4 to 5 degrees. Sounds like a small amount right? Not when we're talking about lowering the body's temperature internally - as the body is a wonderfully elaborate system that likes to stay at the temperature it was designed for.

    To this effect, scientists and medical researchers have come up with a number of ways of cooling down the body. Oh, and if you're wondering why this all needs to happen so quickly, it's all got to do with oxygen consumption. You see, as the body cools, it uses less and less oxygen, which is good news for your brain, as brain cells die very quickly when they lack the wonderful gas we all breathe. By cooling the body down, you effectively "save the brain" while you're trying to restart the heart. This is why a patient could be "dead" and yet still be revived once the heart is restarted.

    Now, conventional cooling methods are fine, but they take long hours to be effective for a patient. This is why medical researchers working in government institutes have found a new way of cooling the body down in minutes, not hours. It's called an IV Ice Slurry. And while it sounds like the latest craze at your local 7-Eleven, it's actually a much more interesting way of achieving the same effect.

    This slurry is injected via a catheter specifically into the organs that necessitate it. For instance, in the cardiac arrest incident above, you'd need cold packs surrounding the lungs to make the blood flowing to the brain colder. However, using the slurry, you can inject the cold substance directly into the lungs (don't worry, you can remove it later) and it'll cool the blood in a matter of minutes. This technique is truly going to revolutionize how we treat patients who are dying and need to be revived quickly.

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    Website Sources

    IV 'Ice Slurry' Quickly Cools Body for Surgeries

    28 November 2008