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Therapeutic hypothermia

Therapeutic hypothermia


What is it?

Therapeutic hypothermia is a noninvasive treatment technique, to prevent permanent brain damage in patients who are resuscitated after sudden cardiac arrest.  According to the American Heart Association, the human brain can die or be irrevocably damaged after just four to six minutes without oxygen-rich blood, and resuscitation efforts are least likely to succeed if they are initiated 10 or more minutes after cardiac arrest occurs.

At St. Mary, therapeutic hypothermia - also known as induced hypothermia - is delivered via the recently acquired Gaymar® Medi-Therm® 7900 Hyper/Hypothermia System.  Through this system, a computer-controlled hyper/hypothermia machine pumps chilled water through polymer wraps placed on the patient's legs and torso. 

The water-filled wraps precisely lower and regulate the patient's internal body temperature to 89.6 to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 12 to 24 hours.

What are the benefits?

This can aid greatly in the healing and recovery process after successful cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and heart defibrillation.  After resuscitation, therapeutic hypothermia is believed to reduce the brain's need for and use of oxygen, and to minimize or halt the damage caused by certain proteins and enzymes that are released in the brain after blood flow is restored.

"Scientific evidence suggests that therapeutic hypothermia should be integrated into the continuum of care for patients experiencing cardiac arrest. For example, a clinical study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2002 by European researchers found that 55 percent of patients who were cooled had a good outcome, compared with 39 percent of those who were not cooled," said Thomas Nicosia, DL, FACHE, Cardiovascular Service Line Administrator at St. Mary, which earned designation as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care from Independence Blue Cross in May 2010.

Historically, cardiac care teams have lowered a patient's body temperature with ice bags or cooled saline bags, or by submerging the patient into ice water.

"These methods are effective, yet they do not allow the precise temperature control or rapid body cooling that our new Medi-Therm system provides. Our team believes that therapeutic hypothermia will become the national standard of care after sudden cardiac arrest, and we are proud to be among the early adopters of this significant evidence-based treatment advance for the benefit of those in our community," Nicosia said.

Read our latest patient success story.




The purchase of the Therapeutic Hypothermia treatment equipment was made possible through the genorisity of Howard and Charlene Schwartz, who recognized the value of what their contribution could do for people in our community.