ARTIFICIAL HIBERNATION attempts to duplicate the metabolic state of the naturally hibernating animal which during winter sleep seems to be very resistant to serious injury, including temporary arrest of the circulation, and to infection. At the approach of winter, the maple tree loses its leaves; the lizard disappears to sleep; some warm-blooded animals, like the ground hog, go into hibernation; but man, in the face of severe external conditions tries to protect the stability of his internal environment. Thus, when anything disturbs him, reactions of defense set in. The defense reactions often overcome the disturbing factor, but sometimes they mount to an impractical and futile fight.
In seriously ill patients, uncontrolled defense reactions, such as extreme rises in body temperature, immoderate secretion of epinephrine, excessive vasoconstriction, and increased metabolism may produce more damage and be much more harmful to the body than the aggression itself. In the disorganized struggle that follows, many patients die. The body’s reaction may be dampened by hibernation, so that, like the hibernating animal, the patient can undergo the aggression without sustaining self-inflicted damage. This, at least, is the principle on which Laborit and Huguenard1 have based their application of artificial hibernation.
Artificial hibernation establishes, for the time, a retrograde evolution that, in emergent situations, attempts to copy the status of creatures less evolved than man himself. Real hibernation cannot yet be duplicated. The fall of temperature in artificial hibernation is less; there is, moreover, a tendency to ventricular fibrillation at low temperatures which is unknown. . .