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Int J Circumpolar Health. 2012 May 8;71(0):1-7. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v71i0.18502.

Fatal hypothermia: an analysis from a sub-arctic region.

Author information

  • 1Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden. helge.brandstrom@vll.se

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To determine the incidence as well as contributing factors to fatal hypothermia.

STUDY DESIGN:

Retrospective, registry-based analysis.

METHODS:

Cases of fatal hypothermia were identified in the database of the National Board of Forensic Medicine for the 4 northernmost counties of Sweden and for the study period 1992-2008. Police reports, medical records and autopsy protocols were studied.

RESULTS:

A total of 207 cases of fatal hypothermia were noted during the study period, giving an annual incidence of 1.35 per 100,000 inhabitants. Seventy-two percent occurred in rural areas, and 93% outdoors. Many (40%) were found within approximately 100 meters of a building. The majority (75%) occurred during the colder season (October to March). Some degree of paradoxical undressing was documented in 30%. Ethanol was detected in femoral vein blood in 43% of the victims. Contributing co-morbidity was common and included heart disease, earlier stroke, dementia, psychiatric disease, alcoholism, and recent trauma.

CONCLUSIONS:

With the identification of groups at high risk for fatal hypothermia, it should be possible to reduce risk through thoughtful interventions, particularly related to the highest risk subjects (rural, living alone, alcohol-imbibing, and psychiatric diagnosis-carrying) citizens.

PMID:
22584518
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3417546
Free PMC Article
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