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Crit Care Med. 1996 Feb;24(2 Suppl):S24-47.

Suspended animation for delayed resuscitation.

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  • 1The Borden Institute, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC 20307-5001, USA.


Suspended animation is defined as the therapeutic induction of a state of tolerance to temporary complete systemic ischemia, i.w., protection-preservation of the whole organism during prolonged circulatory arrest ( > or = 1 hr), followed by resuscitation to survival without brain damage. The objectives of suspended animation include: a) helping to save victims of temporarily uncontrollable (internal) traumatic (e.g., combat casualties) or nontraumatic (e.g., ruptured aortic aneurysm) exsanguination, without severe brain trauma, by enabling evacuation and resuscitative surgery during circulatory arrest, followed by delayed resuscitation; b) helping to save some nontraumatic cases of sudden death, seemingly unresuscitable before definite repair; and c) enabling selected (elective) surgical procedures to be performed which are only feasible during a state of no blood flow. In the discussion session, investigators with suspended animation-relevant research interests brainstorm on present knowledge, future research potentials, and the advisability of a major research effort concerning this subject. The following topics are addressed: the epidemiologic facts of sudden death in combat casualties, which require a totally new resuscitative approach; the limits and potentials of reanimation research; complete reversibility of circulatory arrest of 1 hr in dogs under profound hypothermia ( < 10 degrees C), induced and reversed by portable cardiopulmonary bypass; the need for a still elusive pharmacologic or chemical induction of suspended animation in the field; asanguinous profound hypothermic low-flow with cardiopulmonary bypass; electric anesthesia; opiate therapy; lessons learned by hypoxia tolerant vertebrate animals, hibernators, and freeze-tolerant animals (cryobiology); myocardial preservation during open-heart surgery; organ preservation for transplantation; and reperfusion-reoxygenation injury in vital organs, including the roles of nitric oxide and free radicals; and how cells (particularly cerebral neurons) die after transient prolonged ischemia and reperfusion. The majority of authors believe that seeking a breakthrough in suspended animation is not utopian, that ongoing communication between relevant research groups is indicated, and that a coordinated multicenter research effort, basic and applied, on suspended animation is justified.

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