Cooling Blood Prevents Brain Damage in Heart Attack Patients

Cooling Blood Prevents Brain Damage in Heart Attack Patients

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Ed Yeates ReportingCooling down the body in the throws of a heart attack can dramatically reduce - even prevent brain damage. Based on overwhelming evidence from two major studies, the American Heart Association is now advising the practice as a standard for treatment.

Doctors in critical care at LDS Hospital have already been cooling down selected patients and like the AHA, they too say it works very well.

Richard Anderson had a heart attack on Saturday. Fortunately, he recovered quickly with no complications. But many are not so lucky. In those cases, especially where patients remain in a coma after resuscitation, Dr. George Thomsen says therapeutic hypothermia dramatically reduces the risk of brain damage.

George Thomsen, M.D., LDS hospital critical care: "We cool their body temperature into the range of 90 to 93 degrees, usually for About 24 hours."

Trauma doctors have already had experience with some near drowning victims pulled from extremely cold rivers or streams. Though the heart has stopped beating for some time, the lowered core body temperature protects the brain.

Thomsen: "One estimate suggests a five-fold or five times improved outcome with the new treatment compared to the standard way."

There are several mechanisms already in place for cooling down patients. For example, Austrian physicians use a mattress and fill it with cold air.

But Dr. Thomsen says the Food and Drug Administration is now looking at a remarkable new device that can do it much better, from the inside out.

Thomsen: "There is a new technique that is up for FDA approval currently where we can put a special IV line into a patient that circulates ice water through some of the central blood vessels in the body that allows us very rapidly to cool a patient, much faster for example than if we put them in ice."

Chilling out might also work for stroke patients, perhaps even for some victims of head injuries.

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