Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 20th 2017 Contents B18 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Thursday, July 20, 2017
A physiological process used commonly by
mammals like seals and dolphins inspired the
potentially life-saving method University at
Buffalo researchers successfully tested to raise
blood pressure in a simulation of trauma victims
experiencing blood loss.
The pre-hospital intervention is simple---place a bag
of ice on the victim's forehead, eyes and cheeks. In a
small study, this method was shown to increase and
maintain a person's blood pressure during simulated
blood loss. The researchers have presented these find-
ings at several recent conferences, and their paper will
be published in a peer-reviewed journal later this year.
"There is a slight reduction in blood pressure during
the simulation and we wanted to see if face cooling
would reverse that. It turns out, it does. It raises blood
pressure during a simulated haemorrhage situation,"
said Zachary Schlader, the study's lead author and an
assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences in
UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Mammals like seals and dolphins---and, to a much
lesser extent, humans---have what's called the "mam-
malian diving reflex." It's a physiological function that
the animals employ for submersion in water.
During the reflex, which is partially activated when
the face is immersed in cold water, certain bodily
functions temporarily change to conserve oxygen,
allowing the animals to remain underwater for long
periods of time.
"The idea is, can we utilise a physiological phenom-
enon to have practical benefit? We're talking about
pre-hospital interventions, so it has to be quick and
easy for EMTs, military medics and other first re-
sponders," Schlader, PhD, said.
"We're not changing paradigms. But the biggest
thing is, no one's ever put two and two together. No
one's said: I wonder if this could be used as a tool in
clinical practice, as opposed to simply a tool to probe
physiology," he added.
Face cooling works because it constricts the blood
vessels, which sends blood back to the heart, increas-
ing blood output from the heart. The result is increased
Researchers tested their theory in UB's Center for
Research and Education in Special Environments
(CRESE) using 10 healthy participants. The team sim-
ulated blood loss in the study participants through
a non-invasive process called "lower body negative
Participants were placed in a tube-shaped LBNP
device resembling a CAT scan machine. A pump sucks
air from the device to create negative pressure inside.
As a result, blood is pulled to the person's legs from
the upper body, simulating a haemorrhage event akin
to tourniquet-controlled blood loss.
After six minutes of this, researchers placed a plas-
tic baggy filled with ice water on the participant's
forehead, eyes and cheeks for 15 minutes and then
monitored whether blood pressure was elevated and
maintained. The temperature of the ice water slurry
was about freezing. "Think of it as brain freeze times
10," Schlader says. "It's not very comfortable, but it
could buy you another 15 minutes."
The current study builds off previous research con-
ducted by paper co-author Blair Johnson, an assistant
professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at UB,
who, like Schlader, is also a CRESE investigator.
"We were discussing that if you cool the forehead
and the eyes, you evoke the mammalian diving reflex.
And we thought, what if we can use that reflex to help
bump up blood pressure during a haemorrhagic in-
jury?" Johnson, PhD, said.
Schlader and his team plan to continue pursuing
funding for future studies, one of which would exam-
ine whether chemical ice packs have the same effect
on blood pressure as the ice water slurry.
What is clear is the need for this type of research.
Trauma is the No. 1 cause of death in people under 40,
Schlader says. In addition, haemorrhage is the leading
cause of trauma deaths in the general population in
the USA, and the leading cause of preventable deaths
on the battlefield.
"There's a need to figure out how to prolong sur-
vival in instances of severe blood loss. What it comes
down to is maintaining blood pressure. As you lose
more blood, you compromise your ability to maintain
blood pressure," Schlader said.
Several interventions have been proposed previ-
ously, but these have proven to be less effective and
not as practical for civilian and military applications
as the face cooling method, Schlader said. (University
Mammals like seals and dolphins---and, to a much lesser
extent, humans---have what's called the "mammalian
diving reflex." During the reflex, certain bodily functions
temporarily change to conserve oxygen, allowing the
animals to remain underwater for long periods of time.
Dolphins inspire a potentially life-saving
method for treating trauma victims
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