A trial conducted by the Singapore General Hospital found that cardiac arrest patients could triple their chances of survival by using a treatment technique known as Therapeutic Hypothermia.
During this treatment, an unconscious patient’s body is rapidly cooled from 37°C to between 32°C and 34°C, where the temperature is maintained for 12 to 24 hours. This is done either by wrapping large cooling gel pads around the torso or by pumping cool saline into a catheter that is inserted into the body. The idea is to bring brain temperature down, helping to save barely alive cells. This is because when oxygen is cut off during a cardiac arrest, it starts a chain reaction that ultimately leads to cell death. When the cells are cooled down, they do not need as much oxygen, which in turn reduces damage, offering surgeons extra precious hours to help patients. Patients are given muscle relaxants during this process to prevent shivering.
In a clinical study involving 40 cardiac arrest patients that took place in Singapore between 2008 and 2012, most patients who were given conventional intensive care ended up in a coma or vegetative state. On the other hand, more than half of patients who participated in Hypothermia Treatment woke up with minimal brain damage.
However, not everyone is suitable for this treatment. Firstly, patients need to have a stable pulse and blood pressure. They also need to be unresponsive after being revived. Finally, the cause of cardiac arrest should not be by a traumatic event such as a car accident, as the person may suffer other injuries.
This treatment is still at its clinical trial stage in Singapore.