In the United States, 225,000 people die each year from cardiac arrest before reaching the hospital. When the heart stops beating, blood and oxygen stop flowing to the brain, and brain cells die, but a process called hypothermia has shown to help improve survival and brain function. It is still experimental, but it saved Jim Arrowsmith's life. So far, the results are impressive enough that the food and drug administration has given the University of Washington the okay to try this on heart attack patients, without their consent. Jim is part of the study, but all he remembers is leaving work one day.
"Either at the beginning of my jog or at the end of my jog when I was doing stretches, I collapsed,"says Jim Arrowsmith.
Jim went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. When paramedics arrived, they injected him with more than a quart of cold saline which dropped his body temperature to about 90 degrees. .an effort to stop inflammation in the brain and keep the cells alive, long before he got to the hospital .
"Mild hypothermia may be the first therapy in a long time that may actually improve survival in a lot of these cardiac arrest patients," says Francis Kim M.D. a cardiologist at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
"Our success in resuscitating these people will be the patient's ultimate success because they'll be able to leave the hospital without being neurologically impaired,"says David Coatsworth a paramedic in Seattle, Washington.
Researchers know cooling the body after the patient gets to the hospital improves survival rates by more than 10 percent, but this is the first study to see if cooling within minutes of the attack can help even more.
"I have complete recovery. I didn't lose any bodily functions or brain functions," says Arrowsmith.
The saline is given in addition to the standard CPR and a defibrillator. The FDA has not approved this yet for widespread use, but researchers are hopeful that this may someday greatly improve cardiac arrest survival with full recovery.