A heart attack victim was saved after surgeons performed a UK medical first of cooling him from the inside – like ‘a baked Alaska’.
Steve Jaggers, 50, had his internal temperature reduced from a normal 36.5C to a dangerously low 32C so doctors could minimize damage from the cardiac arrest.
When a person’s body temperature drops below 35C it normally leads to hypothermia and death.
But one British hospital is taking part in a worldwide trial of life-saving surgery using a new type of rapid cooling known as therapeutic hypothermia.
Dad-of-two Steve became the first patient in the UK to have the treatment after suffering a heart attack at his home in Basildon, Essex.
His family took him to the local Basildon Hospital where The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre is taking part in the trial.
Incredibly Steve, a care home maintenance worker, remained conscious throughout the procedure on July 6.
He was wrapped in warming blankets to prevent him shivering which would have acted against the cooling process as his temperature was gradually reduced.
A catheter with balloon was inserted in the main vein in his leg, the inferior vena cava, that runs through the body.
A cooling liquid was then run into the balloon which chills the body from the inside.
Within 18 minutes his temperature was down to 32.5C and at its lowest was 31.7 degrees.
Steve said: “It was such a strange sensation, I don’t know how to explain it. Inside I was cold.
“I felt like I was shivering inside, but I wasn’t showing it. It didn’t feel like me. It was a bit of an out of body experience. It was weird but nice.”
The method works in a similar way to a cold compress on a bruised arm except the cooling takes place inside the body.
Half the injury caused to the heart during a heart attack is done by rapid reflow of blow after a blockage in an artery is removed.
Dr Thomas Keeble, consultant cardiologist at the CTC, said: “By cooling the patient before we open the artery, we can protect the heart and significantly reduce the amount of heart damage.
“It’s essential to do this quickly – we cool them from the inside but keep their outside warm, much like a baked Alaska.”
After the surgery Steve was warmed up slowly by one degree an hour to ensure the blood did not rush back into the affected tissue and cause unnecessary damage.
He added: “It felt like being abroad in the sun, where you get hotter and hotter. I felt like my insides were being warmed from the outside. It seemed to take ages.
“Now I feel completely fine. It’s like nothing has happened to me. I’ve been treated really well here, like a king.”
Steve, who has always been fit and active, will now be monitored to see how his heart fares compared to other patients who have not undergone the procedure.