MDs Use Experimental Cooling on Everett

September 13, 2007


(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.

Kevin Everett

September 12, 2007


I am not a particularly huge sports fan. I will watch a game if is on, or will go to a game for the social aspects. There are a couple sports I’ll even play (tennis, softball, volleyball). But in some ways I idolize the players as much as anyone. The dedication and perseverance to achieve professional status when so many people want it. The professional athletes deal with many pressures and constant criticism from people who couldn’t do what they do in 1000 years. Professional or amateur, I respect anyone with passion for what they do.

Kevin Everett is a young athlete who fate cut down in a cruel way. Everett, the 25 year old Buffalo tight end, sustained a very serious neck/spinal cord injury in the season opener. An injury that severe often results in death, either through a complete loss of brain activity, mass organ failure or as a result of infection.

Why I felt this was an important story to share is threefold. One, it is always important to realize how surprising life can be and not take it for granted. Second, I think he is an admirable yet realistic man. He was initially conscience and his main concern was with notifying his family, then with getting the best treatment possible. Third, because I believe perseverance and will can often transcend other factors. He sustained an injury that should have been fatal, and it was initially deemed a miracle he survived. Then it was stated he will be paralyzed and have severe neurological damage, but had a good chance of survival. Now his doctors are so impressed with his progress they think there is a chance he will walk again. I hope he does. And I hope I am able to write an update in a few weeks to that effect.

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