Thursday, July 1, 2010

Carilion Goes to Hypothermia Treatment

Technicians administer the treatment to a dummy at the Carilion heliport today.^

Carilion Clinic has introduced a new treatment for patients who experience cardiac arrest and are resuscitated, a treatment involves using special equipment and procedures to cool the patient’s body. It is also known as hypothermia therapy.

During cardiac arrest, the brain and organs compete for the diminishing supply of oxygen, often leading to brain damage in patients who survive. Hypothermia therapy cools the body, which slows metabolism and reduces the brain’s need for oxygen--giving rescue workers and doctors more time to treat the cardiac arrest and prevent or reduce brain damage.

Carilion Clinic has selected a cooling process manufactured by Arctic Sun. The technology uses gel pads to carefully lower a patient’s body temperature to 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The Arctic Sun pads are designed to allow hospital personnel to perform all necessary tests and procedures, including X-ray and MRI, without interrupting the cooling process.

After the patient’s condition has been stabilized and cooled for 24 hours, the same Arctic Sun system is used to warm the patient slowly to normal body temperature.

“I’ve personally been involved in launching hypothermia therapy at two other institutions using the Arctic Sun technology and can attest to the tremendous outcomes this treatment can provide,” explains Dr. John Burton, chairman of emergency medicine at Carilion Clinic. “This process is less time and labor intensive than other cooling methods and we’re eager to start using the technology to improve patient outcomes.”

“Launching this new therapy is the result of years of hard work and dedication on the part of many people,” says Dr. Joseph Austin, medical director for the cardiac care unit at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. “Hypothermia therapy requires a unified approach to care and we are so excited to have the support and coordination of all areas to make this a reality.”

Carilion Clinic is partnering with regional emergency medical services (EMS) in Southwest Virginia to introduce this new treatment. EMS can begin the cooling in the field through intravenous ice-chilled saline and ice packs. Upon arrival to the hospital, the patient may receive iced saline, ice packs and cooling pads.

"In the last 50 years of attempting resuscitations, our success rate had not really improved much, with only about five percent of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victims leaving the hospital nationally. This has been a source of great frustration for providers," says Dr. Charles Lane, emergency medicine physician at Carilion Clinic and the regional medical director for Western Virginia EMS Council. "We will bundle induced hypothermia with an intensely managed program to develop a specialized care center for those who have suffered SCA. For certain types of SCA, this results in almost a 10 fold increase in survival. We are looking at making significant improvements in survival and quality of life."

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