Therapeutic Hypothermia and Cardiac Arrest

For people who experience cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops beating, Baptist's Emergency Room is equipped to offer therapeutic hypothermia, a therapy that nearly triples the rate of survival after cardiac arrest. The therapy, which involves cooling the body's core temperature to 89ºF, may be initiated by paramedics in the field after they restart the heart. Paramedics and physicians communicate about the patient's condition while the patient is being transported, and the therapy continues after the patient is brought to Baptist.

In the field, this therapy involves injecting a patient with chilled intravenous (IV) fluids. Portable iceboxes (coolers) kept on ambulances cool down the IV fluids.

Upon further stabilization at Baptist's Emergency Room, the patient then undergoes placement of a specialized cooling catheter into a large vein in the chest and abdomen, which safely cools them down to a core temperature 89º. We are the only hospital in the area to use this method, the most accurate way to measure and maintain core body temperature.

The American Heart Association has recommended therapeutic hypothermia following resuscitation from cardiac arrest, because the treatment has been shown to significantly improve a patient's chances of survival without brain damage.

Brain injury, heart dysfunction, systemic inflammation and the underlying disease that caused the cardiac arrest all contribute to the high death rate of patients who initially have their pulse re-started. Collectively, these symptoms are known as post-cardiac arrest syndrome. Therapeutic hypothermia is able to increase not only a patient's chances of survival, but survival with normal or nearly normal brain function by a factor of 2.5. 

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