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May 2012, Volume 42 Number 5 , p 59 - 62


  • DaiWai M. Olson PhD, RN, CCRN
  • Elizabeth S. Britt BSN, RN
  • Kathleen A. Garvin BSN, RN
  • Jana L. Grissom RN
  • Kehinde H. Laaro RN
  • Byand Noreen Halley RN


A quick scan of recent headlines in the media and medical journals is bound to include at least one story of induced hypothermia, which helps protect the brain from secondary injury after neurologic injury or resuscitation from cardiac arrest.The stories are numerous: Kevin Everett, the football player who sustained a spinal cord injury and is now walking after being treated with induced hypothermia, a cardiac arrest patient who has complete recovery after 24 hours of hypothermia treatment, a woman treated with 7 days of hypothermia to control cerebral edema, and the New York Fire Department embracing hypothermia after cardiac arrest and moving to initiate hypothermia at earlier stages.1,2 Although these compelling stories make the news, you might be surprised to learn that induced hypothermia is neither new nor revolutionary.Centuries ago, Hippocrates wrote of placing his bleeding patients in the snow to decrease blood flow; surgeons during the Napoleonic war used the same technique on soon-to-be-amputated limbs. During the 1940s, hypothermia was used to treat pain and retard cancer growth. The 1950s led the way to the use of hypothermia as a means of reducing blood flow to vital organs during surgery.3 In 1959, Benson published his work on the use of hypothermia after cardiac arrest.3 This was followed by a series of studies by Safar and others showing clinical benefit from induced hypothermia.4 However, from 1960 to 1990, hypothermia research apparently slowed, likely due to the lack of technologic advances in monitoring and maintaining temperature. So, despite the growing evidence to support induced hypothermia, the lack of tools to quickly and accurately cool patients in the clinical setting limited the spread of this treatment.Fortunately, technology evolved and we now have improved our ability to regulate body temperature. The resurgence in research coincides with technologic evolutions. The strategically placed bags of ice used in the 1950s gave way in the 1980s

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