Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Stroke Treatment: It'll Make Your Blood Run Cold

"Blood-Chilling Device Could Save Stroke Victims From Brain Damage"
Wired Science, Wired (February 26, 2010)

"Cool runnings, indeed. A tiny device placed inside a central vein can safely refrigerate blood as it flows through stroke patients, lowering their temperature and raising the possibility that they might gain brain protection from hypothermia without having to be packed in ice.

"Although the trial didn’t find that stroke patients getting their blood cooled fared any better or worse than a comparison group of patients who weren’t cooled, the technology proved safe enough to clear the way for testing the device in a much larger group, said Thomas Hemmen, a neurologist at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center who presented the data Feb. 25 at the International Stroke Conference.

"The new results also demonstrate that stroke patients can be cooled down to 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit safely while they are receiving a powerful clot-busting drug called tPA, the standard treatment given to patients during the first few hours of a clot-induced stroke...."

This sounds like promising medical technology.

The brain is one of the organs we can't replace at this point, so it's very important to keep in in good working order. Which isn't easy when something's gone wrong with the oxygen supply in our head.

The theory, as near as I can tell, is that by reducing the brain's temperature, the rate at which it runs through supplies goes down. Chemical reactions go faster with more heat, slower with less - as a rule.

The article also explains why stroke patients aren't packed in ice to drop their body temperature. A cardiac arrest victim is unconscious - and presumably won't notice the discomfort. Think about it: ever had your hand in a freezer, trying to dislodge something? After a while it hurts. Now, imagine that all over your body and head.

This procedure, refrigerating blood through an IV, apparently isn't as uncomfortable.

And, may be better than something we know changes the way our bodies process oxygen: putting our face in cold water. The mammalian dive reflex doesn't work in humans quite the same way it does in aquatic animals: but it does work. That's (probably) why some of those kids pulled out from under the ice recover.

Yeah: A refrigerated IV probably is better than being dropped in ice water without a mask.

Anyway: Quite an interesting look at a developing technology.

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