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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 1990;4(7):390-3.

Accidental deep hypothermia with cardiopulmonary arrest: extracorporeal blood rewarming in 11 patients.

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  • 1Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, University of Berne, Inselspital, Switzerland.


Sixteen patients (age 13-53 years) with accidental deep hypothermia have been rewarmed in our clinic during the last 10 years, 14 by femoro-femoral cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) of whom 11 had a cardiopulmonary arrest (asystole in 5 and ventricular fibrillation in 6). On admission, the latter were clinically dead showing wide non-reactive pupils and being supported by ventilation and external heart massage. In the survivors, the mean length of cold exposure was 4.4 h (2-5.5 h) and mean arrest interval until initiation of CPB was 2.5 h (1.4-3.7 h). Rectal temperature on admission ranged from 17.5 degrees C to 26 degrees C (mean 22.5 degrees C). The causes for hypothermia were fall into a crevasse (5), avalanche (1), drowning (2) and cold exposure (3) including 2 suicide attempts. Results are summarized in the following table: [table: see text] Eight of the 11 patients with deep hypothermia and cardiac arrest were rewarmed and resuscitated successfully with CPB. Three patients, including 2 cases of asphyxia (avalanche and drowning), could not be weaned from CPB despite adequate rewarming. The other drowned patient (53 years) died on the 3rd postoperative day (POD) from ARDS. The main complication was pulmonary edema (57%) and transient neurological deficits. All survivors became conscious during the first POD and resumed, their professional activity. We conclude that patients with accidental deep hypothermia and even prolonged cardiopulmonary arrest should be rewarmed and resuscitated rapidly by cardiopulmonary bypass. These measures are very promising particularly if the cause of accident and the circumstances suggest that cardiopulmonary arrest was induced by hypothermia alone without other asphyxiating mechanisms.

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