Hypothermia not Helpful for Traumatic Brain Injury

doctor analyzing brain injuryEmergency hypothermic treatment has long been seen as a potential procedure to help traumatic brain injury patients. Unfortunately, new research concluded that the therapy is not significantly beneficial. While it might help patients who have had surgical hematoma removal, those with brain injuries do not benefit.

The Theory

In the same way that ice applied to an external wound brings down swelling, researchers theorized that bringing down a person’s body temperature should reduce swelling internally. Doctors believed that swelling killed brain cells in the affected area by cutting off blood supply. Logically, cooling should reduce swelling, improve blood flow, and prevent brain cell death.

The recent study contradicted the theory, showing that hypothermic therapy did not stop cells from dying. Even though the study was cut short for lack of funding and only looked at a small number of patients, previous studies support the same conclusion.  

The Past Studies

Two other Canadian studies tested hypothermia for traumatic brain injury and showed no traumatic brain injury benefit. In the first study, researchers brought pediatric patients down to hypothermic temperatures within about six hours of injury. The second study looked at the treatment in adults. The results were tragically negative for the pediatric group.

Researchers observed four types of medical outcome to determine if the treatment worked. Patients either recovered from their injuries, recovered with some signs of a disability, survived in a vegetative state, or died. Of the four types of outcome studied, only 69% of children recovered from their injuries. In those children who were not given hypothermic treatment, 79% had positive outcomes. [1] Results in the adult patients were similarly poor.

The Current Study

In the most recent study, doctors reduced the body temperatures of patients to optimal hypothermic levels within 4.4 hours after their traumatic brain injuries. Researchers excluded from the study patients who would have died from their injuries regardless of damage done to the brain.

In 31 out of the 52 patients treated with hypothermia, the outcome was poor, compared to 25 out of 45 people in the group without the cooling treatment. [2] Twelve died in the group treated with hypothermia while only eight died in the control group.

Despite the fact that the outlook was bleak, researchers noted a significantly better rate of positive outcomes in those with surgically removed hematomas. That rate of recovery was 67%, compared to 31% for patients who did not receive hypothermic treatment. Because the study was terminated early, one cannot draw specific conclusions. However, based on the early results of this study and the outcomes of past studies, there is little reason to believe hypothermic treatment will help those with brain injuries.

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If you or someone you love has experienced a traumatic brain injury, contact our office. Our experienced attorneys will provide you with a free consultation of your case. You may be entitled to receive money for medical bills, lost wages due to the inability to work, as well as any pain and suffering you may be experiencing.

1. http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/HeadTrauma/9709
2. http://www.medpagetoday.com/CriticalCare/HeadTrauma/24110

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