A Healthy Brain Freeze

Therapeutic hypothermia underused for heart attack patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) After a heart attack, therapeutic hypothermia lowers the risk of brain damage, but the procedure is seldom used. Moreover, this procedure saves lives and delivers positive financial results.

Though the treatment has been shown to benefit heart attack patients, less than 1 percent of patients in a recent study received therapeutic hypothermia.

Therapeutic hypothermia is a medical treatment used to lower a patient's body temperature to reduce the chance of injury after a period of insufficient blood flow.

"Go to any hospital immediately if you suspect a heart attack."

W. Dalton Dietrich, editor-in-chief of the journal Therapeutic Hypothermia and Temperature Management and Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery, and professor of neurological surgery, neurology and cell biology, and anatomy at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, said that the research underscores the need to more efficiently target and treat cardiac arrest patients that could benefit from the treatment. 

He said that the fact that therapeutic hypothermia is underutilized at U.S. hospitals shows a need to pinpoint and address barriers to ensuring that patients receive the evidence-based therapy. 

During the study, researchers analyzed data from the 2007 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which included information about more than 8 million hospital discharges from 1,044 hospitals in 40 states.

They specifically studied 26,519 records of adult patients who had suffered from cardiac arrest. The average hospital stay for the patients was five days, and about 63 percent of the patients died in the hospital.

They found that only 92 patients, considerably less than 1 percent, received therapeutic hypothermia, though a large portion of patients likely could have benefited from the procedure.

Previous research has suggested that the treatment is associated with a favorable cost-effectiveness ratio of more than $47,000 per quality adjusted life year.

The study was recently published in journal Therapeutic Hypothermia and Temperature Management. No conflicts were reported in the study.

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Review Date: 
January 4, 2012
Last Updated:
January 9, 2012