A few years ago, Alexandria doctor (and a neighbor of mine), Dr. Robin Freedman, came up with a simple and brilliant idea. While thinking about the ability of people to survive extreme hypothermia for prolonged periods of time without sustaining any brain damage, Dr. Freedman, a cardiologist, wondered whether or not inducing hypothermia could increase survival rates for people suffering a heart attack. He developed and created the ThermoSuit, a full-body cocoon that rapidly cools the body temperature of people undergoing cardiac arrest.
Today, the ThemoSuit is being piloted at a number of hospitals, including Oshners in New Orleans, and it’s literally saving lives. From NBC News:
‘ThermoSuit’ may be fast, effective
Which is why doctors at Ochsner (pronounced OSH-ner) have high hopes for the ThermoSuit, made by Life Recovery Systems in Waldwick, N.J.,and designed by a former Air force flight surgeon, cardiologist Robert Freedman of Alexandria, La.
A pump rapidly inflates the pool-like suit until it puffs up tightly around the patient as doctors Velcro on a plastic topsheet. Tubes spray naked patients with frigid water as other tubes drain it away.
The clinic has not yet had the type of heart attack patients called for in the new study. But McMullan has used the suit on 12 cardiac arrest patients, like Crawford, and cooled them to around 90 degrees in as little as nine minutes, typically in about half an hour.
“That’s fabulous and that is very quick. That’s the kind of speed we’re going to need” for this to be practical and useful, said Dr. Lance Becker, a University of Pennsylvania doctor and Heart Association spokesman who led cooling experiments in animals.
On the morning of Nov. 11, when Crawford went into cardiac arrest, she had just arrived for an appointment to see if her badly weakened heart qualified her to be on a transplant list. A doctor-in-training found her slumped near the elevators, and emergency workers shocked her with a defibrillator to restart her heart.
Soon, McMullan and 10 other doctors and nurses were furiously working on the 56-year-old patient as more staff huddled outside a small window in the hall, craning for a peek at the cooling suit spectacle going on inside.
“Isn’t that something? Will you look at that,” one of them muttered.
Crawford’s temperature dropped to 90 degrees in about 40 minutes. Days later, her family marveled at how well she had come through.
In addition to saving Crawford’s life, the ThemoSuit has also been successfully used on a number of other patients:
Results so far on cardiac arrest patients have impressed Ochsner’s chief of cardiology, Dr. Christopher White.
“These are dead people, and they walk out of the hospital. One of them was a mother with six children,” he said.
Another was Steve Benton, 52, treated with the suit in April.
“They came out and told my dad that I was dead,” but he wound up being revived and survived without any brain damage. He is now back at work as a landscaping contractor.