Medicine

Therapeutic Hypothermia: Freezing You To Save Your Life

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There are many stories of people who miraculously survive after being exposed to freezing cold conditions, as though their bodies went into a state of suspended animation. Therapeutic hypothermia is a purposeful attempt at recreating those conditions, usually after someone suffers cardiac arrest. By cooling a patient to just below 95° F (35° C), doctors can slow down the body's chemical reactions, essentially buying the brain more time despite a lack of oxygen. The procedure is not without controversy: some hospitals will induce this hypothermic state, and some won't. Studies do suggest, however, that it improves chances of survival and recovered brain function. Researchers are looking into this and other methods of enacting a torpor-like state in humans, hoping to one day enable long-term travel into deep space.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Fewer than 10% of people who experience a cardiac arrest will survive it. 00:10

  2. See how therapeutic hypothermia is induced: 01:10

  3. Therapeutic hypothermia is not yet a mainstream treatment in hospitals. 02:11

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