WEDNESDAY, April 26, 2017 -- Cooling the face of an accident victim who has lost a lot of blood may help prevent a life-threatening drop in blood pressure, according to preliminary research.
The researchers said first responders could apply an ice bag to the face of trauma victims to help ensure that their heart, brain and other vital organs continue to receive adequate oxygen. Sudden drop in blood pressure -- known as cardiovascular decompensation -- is a major risk after blood loss. And it's even a danger after the patient is no longer bleeding, the researchers added.
"We think that this technique could be used by first responders or combat medics on the battlefield to give additional time for transportation or evacuation," study leader Blair Johnson said in an American Physiological Society news release. Johnson is assistant professor at the University at Buffalo's department of exercise and nutrition sciences.
The researchers stressed that the cooling should only be used after a tourniquet or direct pressure is applied. That's because boosting blood pressure while a patient is bleeding could worsen blood loss.
For the study, Johnson's team placed 10 healthy people in a special chamber. Its effects on blood circulation are similar to what happens when someone loses up to a liter of blood and has a tourniquet applied to stop the bleeding. Bags of ice water or room-temperature water were applied to participants' faces for 15 minutes as their heart function was monitored.
The people treated with the ice bags had big improvements in blood pressure. The researchers concluded that cooling the face might help restore heart function and maintain blood pressure after severe blood loss.
This technique must be tested in clinical trials to determine which patients would benefit most, the study authors noted.
The study's findings were scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the American Physiological Society's annual meeting, in Chicago. Research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about blood loss.
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