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J Neurotrauma. 1992 May;9 Suppl 2:S487-95.

Systemic hypothermia in treatment of brain injury.

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Department of Surgery, University of Texas Health Science Center, Medical School, Houston.


An extensive literature suggests that there are minimal complications of systemic hypothermia in humans at and above 30 degrees C for periods of several days. Intracranial hemorrhage has been found to complicate profound hypothermia (10-15 degrees C), and ventricular arrhythmias occur at temperatures below 30 degrees C. Our initial clinical studies were with 21 patients undergoing elective craniotomy cooled to 30-32 degrees C for 1-8 h (mean 4 h). Hypothermia was induced by surface cooling with water blankets. No complications were found. Among 11 patients with severe brain injury, cooling to levels below 32 degrees C was associated with ventricular arrhythmias in 1 patient and atrioventricular block in 1 patient. Asymptomatic hypokalemia was found routinely and treated with potassium replacement. No intracranial hemorrhage or other complications were found. With surface cooling, intravascular temperature dropped at 1.6 degrees C/h. Based on the safety of surface cooling to a core temperature of 32 degrees C for 48 h, we are conducting a randomized study of this level of hypothermia in patients with severe brain injury, cooled within 6 h of injury.

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