February 20, 2011

How a Grizzly Bear Can Help Patients

Scientists recently figured out exactly what happens to a bear when they hibernate... For SIX to SEVEN MONTHS...

- Their metabolism decreases by 75%. The breathing and heart-rate also decreases
- Their body temperature stays the same
- They do not produce urine or feces
- They do not eat or drink
- Bone strength remains the same
- Their muscle mass and strength remains the same

Now, lets take a look at humans, especially those who are bedridden in a hospital in the intensive care unit. Over a matter of days:

- Muscle mass and strength starts to decrease
- We still produce urine and feces
- We develop bed-sores
- We still require water and food
- Our bones start to weaken
- Our metabolism also decreases, but at the detriment of all other body functions

If somehow we can translate what a hibernating bear does to human beings, that would be amazing in terms of healthcare cost savings AND patient well-being. Imagine being put into a hibernating state while doctors cure your cancer or you recover from surgery or a major illness. Imagine paramedics inducing a hibernating state in a major trauma victim of a motor vehicle accident.

Once your illness, surgery, cancer, or whatever has been cured, you "wake" from your hibernation fully functional without any deterioration in muscle/bone mass or strength. You would literally be able to wake up and go home as if you just woke from a nice long sleep.

From a hospital standpoint, the cost-savings would be enormous. No need for feeding such hibernating patients. The entire field of physical therapy and orthopedics would be dramatically reduced given bones would be stronger with less risk of fractures.

Hibernation would be a natural sleep as opposed to anesthesia which is more akin to a coma.

In terms of ENT, adults can theoretically elect to go into a hibernating state after a tonsillectomy so they would not have to experience the horrible pain that lasts for 2-3 weeks.

Read more about the amazing hibernating bear on NPR news here.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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