(from MARILYNN MARCHIONE’s AP article)
Doctors are following the playbook in treating Buffalo Bills football player Kevin Everett’s severe spinal cord injury except in one notable regard: pumping icy cold saline into his veins to try to prevent further damage.
“There are compelling reasons why one might want to try it” in a case like this, said Dr. Gary Steinberg, chairman of neurosurgery at Stanford University. He had no role in Everett’s case but has tested the body cooling treatment.
The program is among several in the United States that has led research into moderate hypothermia, or cooling the body a few degrees to try to limit swelling, inflammation and the cascade of events and chemicals that cause further damage after an initial neurological injury.
Doctors say Everett received the experimental cooling therapy in the ambulance, even before X-rays and other tests could show the extent of his injury and the treatment he would need.
The goal of the treatment is “to cool the tissue a few degrees to reduce its need for oxygen and to reduce its metabolic rate” and limit secondary damage from chemicals the body releases after the initial injury, said Dr. Elad Levy, a University of Buffalo neurosurgeon who treated Everett.
On Monday, as Everett’s temperature began to rise, doctors decided to try cooling his body again, using a slightly different system. This time, cold saline was circulated inside a catheter, indirectly cooling the blood as it flowed through the vein.
“Not a lot is known about it for spinal cord injury,” said Steinberg at Stanford, where it mostly is done in some stroke and head injury cases under an experimental protocol.
He also received large intravenous doses of methylprednisolone, a steroid to limit inflammation and swelling, and had decompression surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord.