American magician and endurance supremo David Blaine could go blind from blood clots forming in the veins of his eyes while performing his latest challenge to hang upside down for 60 hours, said vascular surgeon Dr Massimo Napolitano at a press conference last week.

35-year-old Blaine, who rose to fame with his TV series David Blaine: Street Magic, has been buried alive, frozen in a block of ice, held his breath for 17 minutes in a tank of water, and lived for 44 days with no food inside a plastic box suspended above the banks of the Thames in London.

Blaine started his toughest stunt yet, the “Dive of Death” , to hang upside down for 60 hours 50 feet above the ground at Wollman Rink in Central Park, New York, at 8.30 on Monday morning.

The stunt lasts for 60 hours: two nights and three days. It finishes on Wednesday at 11 pm. There will be no safety net.

Napolitano leads the vascular surgery unit at Hackensack University Medical Centre, New Jersey. He said that hanging upside down for a long time increases blood pressure in the head and eyes, causing greater risk of blood clots that can cut off the blood supply to the eyes, leading to blindness, according to a report in local paper, the Bergen Record.

Napolitano told the Record that a lot of things can happen to your body when you are suspended upside down, it’s called “reverse physiology“. First the pressure in the veins in the head increases, there is a higher risk of blood clots, and swelling of the brain. You could have a stroke, he said, but you would pass out first.

Kidney stone is another possible result of three days of pushing urine uphill in the ureters, the 12-inch long tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

His urine will be collected in a bag, like a condom, said Napolitano. He won’t be eating during the feat, only drinking.

Blaine appears to have perfected a way of controlling his bodily functions that is akin to that practised by yogis. Napolitano said it seems like he has also found a way to slow down his metabolism.

Napolitano said his interest in the project was to find out what happens to the human body under such circumstances. This is the first time a healthy adult has done something as extreme as this and there could be some “helpful physiological information” from it.

Dr Richard Ruden, who has worked with Blaine before, will be monitoring the magician’s blood pressure and also taking an ECG. Ruden told reporters that not many people could survive such a stunt.

“It is really important for people to understand that David is not an ordinary man,” said Ruden, according to ABC News.

Ruden said if Blaine is successful, “we might have to change his name to ‘He Who Hangs With Bats’.

Source: Bergen Record, ABC News, David Blaine’s Page.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD