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Hypothermia Therapy for Heart Attack Victims
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature drops below the required level necessary for normal metabolic function, and begins to shut down. If left unchecked, it will cause death.
Some doctors are using a new hypothermic treatment on patients who go into cardiac arrest following a heart attack. Though the number of physicians using the procedure is still small, the American Heart Association recommends it.
“What you’re doing is you’re basically slowing down your body’s metabolism, and when you do that, your brain — the most essential organ of all — requires less oxygen and fewer nutrients,” Dr. Travis explains. The brain will survive for a longer period of time in this state, known as hypothermia.
Dr. Sears adds that hypothermia is a common condition in drowning victims. “If you drown in a warm pool, you’re much more likely to suffer brain damage from oxygen deprivation, as opposed to a really cold pool where you’ve got a lot better chance,” he explains.
The Doctors warn that if you’re near a person who has suffered a heart attack, the most important move to make is to first call 911. “[Hypothermia treatment] is only effective once the heart has regained its rhythm,” Dr. Travis says. “This isn’t what you’re going to do before you start CPR and your life-saving procedures.”
Symptoms of Hypothermia
• A case of the “umbles” – stumbles, mumbles, fumbles and grumbles
• Slurred speech
• Abnormally slow rate of breathing
• Cold, pale skin
• Fatigue, lethargy or apathy
Hypothermia Action Plan
• Remove person out of the cold
• Remove wet clothing
• Insulate the person’s body from the cold ground
• Monitor breathing
• Share body heat
• Provide warm beverages (no alcohol, as it will only worsen the condition)
Beating the Odds
A child trapped underwater for 25 minutes and a man whose heart stopped for more than an hour; hear how they lived to tell their death-defying tales.