Cooling treatment rarely used for cardiac patients in U.S. hospitals

June 22, 2013 at 8:37 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, June 22 (UPI) -- Therapeutic hypothermia -- a brain-preserving cooling treatment for patients in cardiac arrest -- is rarely used in U.S. hospitals, researchers say.

Dr. Mark E. Mikkelsen, an assistant professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said the researchers' study found 98 percent of the patients who went into cardiac arrest in the hospital received only conventional post-resuscitation care -- with the remaining 2 percent receiving therapeutic hypothermia.

The cooling treatment has been credited with saving a growing number of lives of people who go into cardiac arrest outside hospitals, as well as preserving neurological function.

"We know it's being used in patients who went into cardiac arrest in their homes, at work, or anywhere else outside of a hospital, but little was known about how often it's used in patients who arrest in the hospital," Mikkelsen said in a statement.

"We found that even though most hospitals have the capability to treat these patients with therapeutic hypothermia, it's not being used. And even when it was used, in nearly half the cases, the correct target temperature was not being achieved."

Therapeutic hypothermia involves cooling the body down to about 89.6 degrees to protect against neurological damage caused by the lack of blood flow and oxygenation.

About 210,000 hospital patients go into cardiac arrest each year.

The study, involving 530 U.S. hospitals and more than 67,000 patients over a six-year period, was published in Critical Care Medicine.

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