London, March 10: 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.
According to Sam Parnia, a world-renowned researcher into resuscitation, Britain has been overcautious in adopting the new technology, meaning that many people who could be saved are still dying.
Cardiac arrests are among the deadliest of medical events. Of the 60,000 Britons affected by them annually, only about 10,000 make it to hospital alive. Of these, only 3,000 survive to leave hospital again.
Doctors such as Parnia believe modern medicine and technology could boost survival rates if medics were given the right training and equipment, particularly extracorporeal membrane oxygenation — or Ecmo — machines.
Parnia, a Briton who trained in the UK and now works as director of resuscitation research at Stony Brook University school of medicine in New York state, is publishing a new book, The Lazarus Effect, about how death-reversing technologies are changing medicine.
“Ecmo machines are widely used in southeast Asia, where doctors can restart the heart 70 per cent-90 per cent of the time versus the usual rate of 20 per cent-25 per cent in America and elsewhere,” he said.
“These are truly game-changing medical advances that threaten to topple all our long-held ideas about death and its power, that are poised to give humanity more power over life and death than ever before.”