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Portable cooling vests could save cardiac arrest victims from brain damage

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July 4, 2012

The prototype cooling vest and zeolite chamber

The prototype cooling vest and zeolite chamber

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Lowering the body’s core temperature has been shown to decrease the likelihood of neurological damage in the event of oxygen deprivation. In a process known as “therapeutic hypothermia,” hospital medical staff will routinely administer chilled water blankets or insert cold drip catheters, in order to protect patients who have just experienced a cardiac arrest or stroke. What can be done, however, when someone has a heart attack far from a hospital? Well, in the near future, bystanders may be able to suit them up with a cooling vest – possibly saving them from permanent brain injury.

The vest is being developed at Germany’s Hohenstein Institute, by a team led by Prof. Dr. Dirk Höfer. Their prototype device incorporates water-filled cooling pads, which are connected by hose to an adjacent vacuum-pressurized sealed metal container. Inside that container are silicate minerals called zeolites, which are known for their ability to rapidly extract heat from water.

In the event of a cardiac arrest, the vest would be placed on the patient as soon as possible – this could be done by non-medical personnel, while they wait for paramedics to arrive. A valve in the system would then be opened, allowing the water in the pads to circulate through the zeolite container and back into the pads. This would cool the water to a near-freezing temperature very rapidly, in turn cooling the patient – ideally, it would bring their core temperature down to between 32 and 34ºC (89.6 - 93.2ºF). The whole process would be non-invasive, and not require any power source.

An infrared image of one of the cooling pads, illustrating how cold they get
An infrared image of one of the cooling pads, illustrating how cold they get

Hopefully, by the time the patient regained normal cardiac function, the cooling effect would have protected them from any lasting brain damage.

Höfer and his team envision the vests being available for emergency use in public buildings, on municipal transit, and other places where everyday people may suddenly find themselves called upon to administer first aid. They are currently seeking an industrial partner to develop the product.

Source: Hohenstein Institute

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
2 Comments

I used to have a job that involved wearing fire retardant suit in hot weather. My only cold air was my chem/bio particle filter in my drivers seat that didn't give out much cold air but plug it into the suit and it was heaven.

The moral of the story (besides that I like to talk a lot) is that it takes far less energy to cool you inside of your clothing you are in than it does to cool the environment that you are in.

I wonder how hard it would be to build an air conditioning suit for super hot weather that can be charged when you aren't mobile.

If you walk over to the couch for instance you could take off a backback version and plug in a dedicated one sitting next to the couch and sit down to enjoy frozen air conditioned bliss.

You could even make a blanket with air channels in it that lead to a bunch of tiny little holes.

I need to stop typing my ideas on web forums and try to sell them on QVC instead or something.

Daishi
5th July, 2012 @ 09:47 pm PDT

One thing the inventor and the journalist are both forgetting is this little thing called the golden hour. The amount of time it takes for a person to receive help is critical. Make this a blanket and it would be even better. To get a person into a vest you have to move them thereby exaggerating any neck injuries they may have from when they collapsed.

Doug Doyle
7th July, 2012 @ 11:06 pm PDT
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