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Cooling Technique in Spinal Cord Injuries Showing Promise

Cooling Technique in Spinal Cord Injuries Showing Promise

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**(AP Photo/David Duprey)**Dr. Kim Mulvihill Reporting

It's a big medical story and possibly a dramatic reversal of fortune for an NFL player injured during a football game last Sunday.

The Buffalo Bill's Kevin Everett suffered a devastating spinal cord injury. Doctors initially said there was little chance he'd walk again, but since then he's moved his arms and his legs. His mother is calling it a miracle. His doctors are cautiously optimistic.

Kevin Everett is moving his arms and legs, wriggling his toes and laughing. It's a dramatic turn of events, due in part to spinal surgery and a pretty cool experimental treatment.

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Cappuccino said, "It was the perfect storm of treatment for a person with this type of an injury."

The early use of an experimental treatment, an alert staff on the field and in the hospital and sheer luck puts football player Kevin Everett in better shape than anyone could have imagined.

When Everett was injured, treatment began immediately. In addition to a mega dose of steroids to limit tissue swelling, Everett got the equivalent of an ice pack to his spine

Neurosurgeon Kevin Gibbons, M.D. said, "We use hypotheramis in a variety of neurosurgical procedures to protect the brain and spinal cord."

It's called therapeutic hypothermia. The patient's blood is cooled, by an icy solution of saline, dropping the body's core temperature to 92 degrees. The technique has been used for years in cardiac patients; it's experimental in acute spinal injuries.

Dr. Cappuccino says, "If we can in any way possible lower core temperature, there may be in fact, and we don't have all the data, a sparing effect in inflammation and otherwise cell destruction in the spinal cord."

Hypothermia reduces the body's demand for oxygen and slows metabolism, lowering the risk of further injury. Everett was kept cool for several days and was slowly re-warmed yesterday. Today he's off the ventilator.

Everett has months and years of recovery ahead of him. He has a feeding tube and is getting medication to prevent blood clots. His biggest risk right now is stroke or pneumonia, but his doctors do not anticipate any additional surgery at this time.

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