Freezing Hearts Back to Health
Reported July 2009
COLUMBUS (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when your heart abruptly stops. It's the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming 325,000 lives last year alone. Now, doctors are freezing hearts back to health.
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Mary McMichael-Liston doesn't feel like she's 46.
"About the 20 mile mark I was wondering what I was doing, by the end I was strong again," McMicheal-Liston told Ivanhoe.
McMichael-Liston finished a marathon -- 26.2 miles -- in less than five hours.
"I was thinking oh man I did it," McMichael-Liston said.
So what a surprise it was to her, when a heart problem snuck up on her.
"My family doctor said the best explanation I have for you Mary, is that you are that young kid out on the football field that you read about that basically falls over dead," McMichael-Liston explained.
McMichael-Liston's heart was beating so fast, that no oxygen could get to her brain. Within minutes critical care physicians at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus Ohio, were able to use hypothermia, to help save McMichael-Liston's heart
"By cooling them after they have a cardiac arrest, it helps to decrease the body's metabolism and decrease the amount of brain damage that occurs," Simi Bhullar, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told Ivanhoe.
Doctors inject cold saline solution into the patient and keep them cool with these pads, taking the body temps down from 98 to 90 degrees, giving the brain a break, reducing swelling and protecting brain cells from any further damage. Patients are kept cool for 24 hours.
"It's amazing to see them awake the next day in the ICU," Dr. Bhullar said.
McMicheal-Liston learned she suffers from abnormal heart rhythms.
"You can have something your whole life and never know it," McMichael-Liston said.
A defibrillator, implanted in McMicheal-Liston's chest, now keeps her heart beating regularly.
"To me this is a gift and they way everything happened, it all lined up in such perfect harmony for me to walk away from this."
For hypothermia to work, it must be administered within 15 to 30 minutes of a cardiac arrest. Hypothermia is also used in spinal cord injuries, and it being used to reduce brain swelling in stroke patients.
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Lara Lindsay, Public Affairs
Ohio Health Network
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