There are 530,000 cardiac arrests in America every year, putting patients at risk for permanent brain damage and death. Researchers from the University of Colorado are working on a new treatment, manually lowering the body temperature of cardiac arrest patients, to improve their chance of survival and decrease their change of losing neurological function. The method is called "therapeutic hypothermia," and the results of their study were recently published in Circulation.
Cardiac arrest occurs when an abnormal arrhythmia causes the heart to stop beating (MedlinePlus
). Reduced blood flow to the organs and body tissues causes a dangerous loss of oxygen. Losing blood flow to the brain can cause irreparable damage to neurological functions.
Therapeutic hypothermia has been shown previously to be effective in cases of "ventricular fibrillation," a "serious cardiac disturbance" involving arrhythmias, eventually leading to cardiac arrest (American Heart Association
). Directed by Dr. Sarah Perman, researchers from Colorado showed in this study how therapeutic hypothermia is also applicable to other arrhythmia cases leading to cardiac arrest and the patient being comatose.
Perman and her team examined 519 patients with non-ventricular fibrillation heart rhythms. Patients who had their body temperature lowered from 37 degrees Celsius to 33 degrees Celsius were 2.8 times as likely to survive and 3.5 times as likely to have better neurological outcomes.
Scientists are still speculating why this therapy helps prevent damage to the brain, whether it's slowing down bodily functions, directing energy to vital organs, or something else. Perman did say for certain though, "we know that patients benefit from this therapy."
The hypothermic action must be applied immediately after arrest for it to be effective. Looking ahead, Perman and her team aim to specify how to curtail this treatment to individualized cases of injury to improve survival and neurological health outcomes.
Check out the following video to learn more about studies involving therapeutic hypothermia.
Source: University of Colorado