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Medical Ice Slurry Coolants for Inducing Targeted-Organ/Tissue Protective Cooling

Dr. Ken Kasza, PhD

 Argonne National Laboratory (NE Division)
June 2008

Contributors: Brandon Fisher 1, Farah Shareef 1, John Oras 1, Jimmy Chang 1, Adrian Tentner 1, Paul Fischer 1, Chuck Vulyak 1, Arieh Shalhav 2, Sergey Shikanov 2, Terry VandenHoek 2, Dave Beiser 2, John Alverdy 2, Jeffrey Mathews 2

Argonne National Laboratory researchers have developed and patented a special "ice slurry", a material that can be injected either intravenously, intraarterially, laparoscopically over the external surfaces of organs, or even endotracheally, designed to selectively cool organs to prevent or limit hypoxemic damage. The researchers in collaboration with University of Chicago Medical School doctors/researchers hope that the slurry coolant will be useful for a variety of procedures for inducing targeted organ protective cooling, from organ harvesting to spinal cord preservation in patients undergoing descending aortic surgery, as well as in cases of total body preservation during total circulatory arrest. Pre-clinical work is currently being conducted on pigs to assess the effectiveness of the slurry for potential human applications.

medical protective cooling, ice slurry coolant, protective cooling of organs, targeted internal cooling, protective hypothermia.

1 Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne)
2 University of Chicago (UC)

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Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago’s (UC) Emergency Resuscitation Center (ERC) and the Urologic Surgery Section are developing a technology that could help in saving stroke and cardiac arrest victims and in performing various surgical procedures. The team has developed an ice slurry coolant — a saline-ice mixture that may be injected into a patient’s body for rapid cooling of vital organs and tissues. One version of ice slurry is an equal mix of ultra-small (equivalent to the diameter of a human hair) ice particles and a salt water liquid carrier.

Recent research by others on inducing protective cooling has focused on single-phase coolants, such as chilled saline, and on external cold blankets.

Saline cooling is not capable of inducing the rapid targeted cooling that is possible with a slurry, which has the additional major benefit of absorbing more than four times the heat compared with chilled saline because of the ice particle melting (change of phase). Thus, a much smaller quantity of slurry is required to cool to the same temperature as a single-phase coolant, which relies only on sensible heat absorption. This slurry characteristic greatly reduces the chances of upsetting the patient’s biochemistry resulting from coolant overload.

External cooling blankets, caps, and jackets for inducing protective hypothermia work very slowly and cool the entire body, often causing adverse effects such as uncontrolled shivering, and they may also fail to protect a specific organ from localized tissue damage.

The Argonne-UC slurry-induced protective cooling overcomes these shortcomings. It is very easy to administer, rapidly cools, and suppresses the effects of tissue damage, trauma, and infection and limits injury or organ cell death by slowing metabolism, which greatly reduces the needs for oxygen.

Our research to date has resulted in nine patents being granted or pending covering slurry production equipment (involving several methods for making slurry), various injector tips, and various medical applications. Argonne has also recently demonstrated the ability to make an ice slurry from a commercial blood substitute, which will provide oxygen and nutrients as well as cooling for protecting organs.


Originally, under funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Argonne developed ice slurry technology for industrial and municipal applications, particularly to replace chilled-water cooling systems in building complexes.

In 2002, Argonne and UC received a joint five-year Bioengineering Research Partnership Grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop ice slurry cooling for medical applications. Argonne performed the slurry development research, and UC conducted medical exploratory slurry tests with Argonne on animals simulating conditions such as emergency out-of-hospital cardiac arrest treatment and in-hospital kidney laparoscopic procedures. Argonne and UC over the last year and a half have worked on further broadening the slurry cooling research to develop other innovative medical procedures employing protective slurry cooling.

Medical Ice Slurry Coolants for Inducing Targeted-Organ/Tissue Protective Cooling
Next page: Technology Description
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  • Laparoscopic Partial Nephrectomy with Ice Slurry as Coolant in the Porcine ModelLaparoscopic Partial Nephrectomy with Ice Slurry as Coolant in the Porcine Model
    This video depicts the usage of ice slurry cooling, using a porcine model, for protecting the kidney from ischemia damage during a partial nephrectomy. The video illustrates the ease of use, protective benefits and advantages of using slurry cooling over cold saline solution.
    Read full story and watch video
  • Computer model of a kidney being cooled by ice slurryComputer model of a kidney being cooled by ice slurry
    Computer model of a kidney being cooled by ice slurry (model created with ABAQUS code)
    Watch video

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