NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) — City paramedics have begun to treat cardiac arrest victims with a procedure that cools the body with cold intravenous fluids to preserve muscle, tissue and neurological functions — all while the patient is in the ambulance.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and fire department officials said Monday that the procedure — which is called hypothermia therapy and chills the body from a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees to as low as 89.6 degrees — has been proven to slow the damage of cardiac arrest on the body.

Hospitals in many other cities nationwide use the cooling therapy, but only a few municipalities are administering it out in the field, said Dr. David Prezant, the fire department’s chief medical officer.

And New York City is believed to be the first major city to apply hypothermia therapy out in the field to patients who are still in cardiac arrest. Other cities typically do it after resuscitation, once the patient has a pulse, he said.

Refrigeration equipment has been installed in paramedic ambulances, and paramedics have been trained on the procedure.

Some New York hospitals have been performing the procedure for several years. As of last year, more than 40 are equipped as hypothermia centers.

The fire department expects its paramedics will treat 6,000 patients with hypothermia therapy in the next year.

“With paramedics now able to start this emergency procedure themselves,” Bloomberg said, “we expect the number of patients benefiting from this lifesaving treatment to more than double, and that’s going to save even more lives and preserve the quality of life for even more New Yorkers who experience cardiac arrest.”

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