Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Lazarus Effect

Last week I posted some items about Lazarus and in passing mentioned the Lazarus Effect. Coincidentally yesterday I saw an item about it that (to me at least) seems pretty impressive: 
Lazarus rising 
Will Pavia
The Australian  
March 30, 2013  
EARLIER this month, a woman with heart disease died in a New York hospital. She showed no signs of life for an hour and 15 minutes after suffering cardiac arrest. At any other hospital she would have been declared dead.  
This patient, however, had collapsed at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, a leading centre for research on reviving the clinically dead. After resuscitation failed, doctors chilled her body to slow brain-cell degeneration and applied a sensor to her forehead to measure the saturation of oxygen in her brain (the normal level is 60-80 per cent).  
"We've found that if the brain saturation remains less than 30 per cent, people will never come back," says Dr Sam Parnia, the director of resuscitation research. After doctors attached the woman to a machine that oxygenates the blood, "the oxygen levels in her brain shot up to 70 per cent. Her heart restarted. She made a full recovery."  
Such revivals are now increasingly common, Parnia says. He has written The Lazarus Effect, detailing how the dead may be reanimated hours after their hearts have stopped and calling on all hospitals to adopt similar techniques. So long as the underlying disease is treatable, death may be but a temporary affliction. 
A few weeks earlier The Australian had reprinted an item from The Times that described the same technology: 
Lazarus effect of ecmo heart machine 
SCIENTISTS have developed technology that can bring people back from the dead up to seven hours after their hearts have stopped - and want it installed routinely in hospitals and even ambulances.  
Ecmo machines, which act like heart bypass systems but can be fitted in minutes, are already used widely to save cardiac arrest victims in Japan and South Korea, where they are credited with reviving people long after they have apparently died.  
Such machines take blood out of the body, remove the waste CO2 and then pump it back into the body laden with oxygen, effectively replacing the heart. In recent years they have become quicker to fit, small enough to put in ambulances and relatively cheap.  

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