POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2009 - 11:33am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:24pm

Chilling the body may prevent brain damage in children suffering cardiac arrest...

Later this year 15 medical centers will begin testing what is called Therapeutic Hypothermia on children suffering from cardiac arrest.

Physicians routinely use the procedure on adults, but they don't have any data on what it might do for children from infancy to eighteen years of age.

In the procedure doctors place patients on a temporary heart-assist device and packed them in ice to cool down the body.

The assist pump allows the heart to heal itself while the induced hypothermia protects the brain.

The University of Utah and University of Michigan will head up a study to see if "cooling" works for children.

"Children have cardiac arrest, either because they are already in the hospital with a very, very severe illness or they have a cardiac arrest outside the hospital because of something sudden and unexpected," explained Dr. Michael Dean of the University of Utah's School of Medicine.

If the heartbeat is restored, but a child remains in a coma, physicians at Primary Children's Hospital and 14 other medical centers will use cooling blankets to drop the body temperature to 32 to 34 degrees Celsius.

The patient will remain at that temperature for three days.

Then rewarming over 16 hours will bring them back up to normal, where they will stay for 120 hours.

"If the data looks good, we'll transform the care of children that have had cardiac arrest across the world," says Dr. Dean.

Paramedics might even be able to do the procedure in an ambulance while the patient is being transported.

"The animal studies that underlie all of these efforts in the clinical setting are fantastic," Dr. Dean adds.

After one year, with more funding from the National Institutes of Health, the study could expand to include 30 sites around the country.

More than 900 children could be enrolled over the next six years.

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