Health Watch - Danger: Rescuing Miners

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This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about how medicine can help when danger strikes. One of the most dangerous situations in the past year was when a group of miners was trapped below ground in Chile. Protocols developed for space travel by doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center helped get those miners safely above ground.

After the Chilean miners survived months below ground, the last part of their ordeal – getting to the surface – held its own dangers. People who have to stand after being confined in a small space are likely to faint, and in the narrow capsule for the ride to the surface, there was no room to fall if they fainted, which meant they could lose blood supply to the brain.

Dr. Benjamine Levine, a UT Southwestern cardiologist, developed the guidelines that were used to help prevent this problem. The miners were told to cross their legs and squeeze their muscles to push blood back to their hearts and to cough if they felt lightheaded. None of the miners fainted while returning to the surface. 

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March 2011


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