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Devices to cool the brain developed

8th January 2009

UK scientists have developed new ways to cool the brains of heart attack and stroke victims to help protect them from brain damage.

Cooling the brain is believed to slow the release of harmful chemicals from nerve cells.

Many intensive care units at hospitals across the UK have already adopted this idea, which is thought could help save patients’ lives after studies demonstrated the benefits.

New Scientist magazine reports on new inventions, including a cap that blows cold air across the scalp, chilling nasal spray and an icy lung injection.

At present this "therapeutic hypothermia" is induced using cooled pads, ice packs or even injecting chilled saline liquid into the blood stream but scientists are seeking new methods to achieve this.

Edinburgh University has developed a cooling helmet to target the network of blood vessels on the scalp with tests indicating it could cool the brain by 1C an hour.

US scientists are pioneering a cool spray for the nasal cavity while a more radical idea includes squirting icy “slurry” into the lungs.

Dr Richard Lyon from Edinburgh is conducting a study looking at the temperature of heart attack patients.

He said: "In many cases, cooling would not happen until the patient reached intensive care, which could be several hours after the heart attack. Significant damage may already have happened by then."

He said some cooling methods would have to be suitable for paramedic use but that it was clear that cooling had the potential to be a major lifesaver.

 

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