This is an extraordinary medical case according to Professor Xavier Capdevila, Head of the Anaesthesia-Intensive Care Unit at Montpellier University Hospital (CHU). A 53 year-old man was resuscitated eighteen hours after his heart had stopped beating.
On 12 March 2018, the man was found unconscious, in a state of hypothermia and cardiac arrest on the banks of the river Orb near Béziers. The emergency services performed cardiac massage for 4.5 hours whilst machines kept him alive. Meanwhile, blood circulation was initiated “to preserve the vital functions of the main organs, essentially the brain, thanks to a good blood flow,” explained the Professor. After eighteen hours without beating, his heart was restarted apparently with no detrimental effects. He took his first steps this week.
This “miracle” can be attributed to hypothermia (his body temperature fell to 22°C instead of 37°C). According to ICU physician, Christophe Prudhomme, hypothermia slowed down the patient’s bodily functions and therefore prevented any sequelae. He compares this process to “a sort of hibernation or freezing process” pointing out that, basically, “when someone falls into a river, for instance, and rapidly enters a state of hypothermia, prolonged attempts at resuscitation can be attempted by gradually warming up the body”. Professor Capdevila explains: “Ultimately, hypothermia saved him by protecting his organs and allowing his heart to start beating again after his body temperature returned to 32°. At this point, cardiac activity was reinstated by electrical stimulation, and the heart started to beat under excellent conditions without any signs of arrhythmia or tachycardia”.
Christophe Prudhomme nevertheless acknowledges the fact that “18 hours is really exceptional”. Professor Capdevila believes that this rare event “will be the subject of a scientific paper in due course”.
Le Parisien, Christian Goutorbe (05/04/2018)
France Info (06/04/2018)