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A Review of the Use of Early Hypothermia in the Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Summer 2009

Arcure J, Harrison EE. 09(3). 22 - 25. (Journal Article)


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an assault to the brain that disrupts neurological activity. Known as the signature wound of combat during Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduing Freedom (OEF), it has become one of the most common injuries to American Soldiers. While affected Soldiers may remain stable after the primary injury, progressing secondary mechanisms can produce neurological degeneration. Hypothermic medicine is the treatment of injuries by cooling the core body temperature below normal physiological levels. Such treatment may be indicated to improve neurological outcomes after traumatic brain injuries by reducing the evolving secondary deterioration. To date, clinical trials have reached mixed conclusions. Trials have used unique temperature goals for treatment, different methods and times to reach such goals, and different durations at therapeutic temperature. Such variances in procedure and experimental populations have made it difficult to assess significance. In the article written by Markgraf et al. in 2001, research in animals showed the effect of hypothermic treatment within rats. Their results suggest that early initiation of hypothermic medicine after an induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) improved neurological outcomes when the body was cooled to 30°Celsius (C) within four hours. An ongoing study by Clifton et al., on adults diagnosed with TBI, is examining the neurological outcome of early hypothermic medicine by centrally cooling the body to 33°C and maintaining that temperature for 48 hours. While previous hypothermic devices were unable to cool rapidly, new technology allows achievement of the goal temperature within 20 minutes. Implementation of such new treatment may show an improvement in neurological outcomes for patients when treatment target temperature is reached within a four-hour window. We recommend that the use of hypothermic medicine should be re-evaluated for its indication in TBI due to the capabilities of a new extremely rapid cooling device.

PMID: 19739473