Research on a specially designed ice slurry at the Argonne National Laboratory might one day allow better organ protection during periods of ischemia (as in stroke, MI, spinal cord during the descending thoracic aneurysm repair, etc):
The result of years of research and development, the ice slurry is specially engineered to have rounded particles and special flow characteristics that allow it to be pumped easily through small tubes.
In the procedure, slurry would be delivered into the lungs or other organs, such as the stomach, which are used as in-body heat exchangers to cool the surrounding blood. For cardiac arrest, medics would perform chest compressions to circulate the cooled blood, allowing it to reach the brain and preserve brain cells. The ice slurry melts in the body, where it acts much like drip bag saline solution.
Data collected by the Argonne-University of Chicago team show that the ice slurry cools the brain by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius in a few minutes, which is much faster than any other method currently available. For example, external cooling by chilling blankets can take 3 to 5 hours, which is much too slow in an emergency such as cardiac arrest. The ice slurry appears to keep the brain cool for an hour, which would give medics and doctors more time to revive normal blood flow and brain activity. This extra time could reduce the brain damage to little or none.
For heart attacks, the ice slurry procedure would be secondary to defibrillation. In a real scenario, medics at a scene would start with the defibrillator, but if the heart did not respond, they would begin immediate cool down.
The team is currently working on further expanding the ice slurry’s medical applications beyond cooling the heart and brain. Working with Dr. Arieh Shalhav, a University of Chicago surgeon, they are testing the effectiveness of ice slurries in cooling kidneys during laparoscopic surgery. Research has shown that the ice slurry can be readily delivered by a small tube through existing laparoscopic surgery penetration ports using endoscope viewing to guide coating the external surface of an organ, cooling it 15 degrees C or more in 10 minutes.