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Cooling’ Treatment Could Save Lives And Reduce Brain Damage

by on March 25, 2011

More people who suffer cardiac arrests could soon be offered a cooling treatment to reduce the risks of them dying or becoming severely brain damaged. This comes as new NICE guidance advises doctors that the treatment is safe and works well enough for routine use in certain patients.

“Therapeutic hypothermia” is a procedure used in some critical care units for people who have just been resuscitated following cardiac arrest due to a heart attack or other trauma. The treatment involves lowering a person’s body temperature to 32-34°C while unconscious, using a blanket or mattress filled with air or fluid, or a special cap. The aim is to cool the person’s brain and slow down the rate of cell damage.

Up until now, there have been significant uncertainties among doctors about the procedure’s risks and its potential to reduce brain damage and save lives, compared to standard intensive care treatments. This has meant while certain hospitals in the NHS may be offering this to some of their critically ill patients, others may not be considering it at all.

The new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that healthcare professionals could consider therapeutic hypothermia as a treatment option for people who are at risk of brain injury after cardiac arrest, under their hospital’s usual arrangements for clinical audit/research, governance and consent.

Professor Bruce Campbell, Chair of the Interventional Procedures Advisory Committee which produced the guidance for NICE said: “The evidence shows that controlled cooling of selected patients who have suffered cardiac arrest can increase their chances of survival. The therapy can also reduce the risk of severe brain damage, which can occur when blood flow to the brain is disturbed.

“While the outcomes of therapeutic hypothermia seem to look promising, we still need to find out more about precisely which patients are most likely to benefit from its use. This is why we are encouraging further research in this area.”

The NICE guidance does not advise whether or not the procedure should be funded – these decisions are made locally.

Source:
NICE

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