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Low temperature can save heart attack patients
A new study suggests that decreasing the temperature of the patients even by using ice packs can save them from the trauma of a heart attack.
Quickly placing heart-attack sufferers in a real-world type of suspended animation by cooling their bodies saved more than a third of patients who would otherwise have been declared dead, doctors reported.

The study was costly, high-tech and small. But it adds to evidence suggesting that cooling patients-even using ice packs and special blankets-protects brain function and saves lives, doctors at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting said.

Lead researcher Ken Nagao, of Nihon University School of Medicine in Tokyo, reported that he tested the approach in heart-attack patients whose heartbeats could not be restored by paramedics or emergency-room personnel.

"To all intents and purposes, they are dead. They do not have a heartbeat," says Lance Becker, director of emergency resuscitation at the University of Chicago hospital, who was not involved in the 122-patient study.

When they arrived at the emergency room, 20 patients were cooled within 30 minutes to 93.2 degrees and then revived using a heart-lung bypass machine. Only after that did doctors stop to clear their clogged arteries.

Of the patients who were cooled immediately, seven, or 35 per cent, survived and left the hospital.

Just 13 per cent of those who were cooled later were able to leave the hospital. Those who were cooled more quickly also retained better brain function.

Hospitals in the US reserve costly heart-lung bypass machines for surgery patients and do not use them in emergency rooms, a strategy pioneered by Nagao, says Jerry Potts, director of science programmes for the AHA.

But Becker says more hospitals are beginning to use relatively cheap infusions of chilled saline or 0even ice packs and special blankets to cool heart-attack patients. "It can be done very inexpensively," he said, adding that surveys indicate one in four US doctor's report that they use hypothermia to treat heart attacks.
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Posted on : 22/11/2005
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