domingo, 11 de mayo de 2014

A speculative idea for the treatment of extreme physical trauma.

The surgery exam is coming up, and reading about recent developments in artificial blood and nanotechnology/material sciences, I’ve had an idea, which is certainly flawed, but might, once the defects I haven’t thought about have been properly addressed, be marginally useful in the future for the treatment of some cases of extreme physical trauma which today almost invariably end up with the death of the patient.
        Imagine if you will, that a few decades from now artificial blood is plentiful and artificial “plastic” capillaries can be made, such as that said artificial blood can be oxygenated in an artificial lung by making it go through said capillaries. Also, in imagine the less pleasant scene of a person suffering from major trauma, such as losing both legs in a flying GoogleCar accident, massive 3rd degree burns from a failed space-tourism landing or being shot several times in a robot uprising (remember, this is the fuuuture).
        Now, if we assume that major industrialized nations continue with their mixed model economies, with ever-growing market economies and ever-better funded public healthcare systems, the vast majority of the population, who lives in major urban centers, could receive very quick (a matter of minutes) emergency medical attention thanks to medicalized helicopters and smartphones/intelligent clothing that allow for immediate reporting of emergencies. Said helicopters (or, in the worst case, ambulances) would have an “Ezkurra Box for Extreme Trauma” (so named because I can), which would consist of a simple set of hydraulic pumps which would mimic the heart, with catheters connecting them with the capillaries of the fake lung and a supply of artificial blood, all enclosed in an aseptic box (see scheme for visualization with the most extreme survivable form of trauma I could imagine – decapitation.
  Futurama head-in-a-jar, anyone?
        Of course, this contraption is limited to ensuring that all organs that are physically there after the traumatic experience keep receiving properly oxygenated and pressurized blood until the hospital is reached and the situation is stabilized (say, all cuts are properly sealed). If, unfortunately, the heart or lungs were crushed, the patient would have to live attached to the Ezkurra Box (Hmm, sounds more narcissistic than I thought) or have one inside his thorax a la Dick Cheney (although the former VPOTUS has just a fake heart, no fake lungs exist yet), with the ensuing infectious and autoimmune complications. Likewise, the patient would have to undergo dialysis until a kidney was donated (or cloned from the patient in the fuuuture) and would have numerous nutritional/metabolic problems depending on what parts of his digestive tract were affected (e.g. diabetes and general food malabsorption would result from the destruction of the pancreas). Finally, in the extreme case of decapitation, even if the rest of the body were connected to the box, kept alive and then reattached to the head in the hospital, the patient would end up quadriplegic unless a whole spine section were regenerated/ substituted with metal (as has been experimentally done with rats), a procedure which will quite probably take more years for medical science to develop than artificial blood/capillaries, although the patient could maybe regain movement with an exoskeleton or remote controlled limbs, which seem more feasible.
         In any case, there are certainly many minor flaws with this scheme, but I think that in a few decades a variation of it might be used to avoid hypovolemic shocks, which kills quickly and often in trauma. Let us all hope so.