Myocardial Infarction
Therapeutic Hypothermia - Cooling therapy protects brain after cardiac arrest
Dec 7, 2009 - 3:20:49 PM

Revival of the heart after it stops may save a patient's life, but it permanently damages the brain. Cooling the patient for some time is known to mitigate this harmful effect and improve survival, under a procedure known as therapeutic hypothermia.

Cardiac arrest interrupts the blood supply, depriving cells of oxygen and causing the body to release toxic compounds, that can overwhelm the organs and result in long-term brain injury.

Therapeutic hypothermia slows the body's production of these compounds, reducing risk for brain injury. The therapy has been used successfully in adult cardiac arrest patients, and has been beneficial for newborns, who have received insufficient oxygen at birth.

Now, in the first large-scale multicentre study, physician-scientists are evaluating the effectiveness of the technique in infants and children.

'Cardiac arrest can occur in children either as a complication from a serious medical condition or due to an accident or sudden illness,' warns Charles Schleien, paediatrician and anesthesiologist at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

'While arrest in children is rare, currently no therapies have been shown to improve their chances of recovering,' adds Schleien, who is also the executive vice-chairman of paediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

'In this new study, we aim to show that therapeutic hypothermia can give these children a better chance at survival and long-term quality of life,' says Schleien.

Those receiving hypothermia will have their body temperature reduced to between 89.6 degrees and 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit - for two days, then slowly increased to a normal body temperature and maintained for another three days, says a New York-Presbyterian release.

Co-led by Frank W. Moler at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Michael Dean at the University of Utah, the six-year study involves a total of 16 study sites in North America.

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