OSF Saint James - John W. Albrecht Medical Center

Pontiac, Illinois

Therapeutic Hypothermia

Therapeutic hypothermia, also known as cardiac cooling, can improve a heart attack patient's chances at a full recovery. The therapy is for adults age 18 and older who have been quickly and successfully resuscitated following cardiac arrests. In this situation, they have regained their pulse and blood pressure, but are still unresponsive.

Therapeutic hypothermia decreases the release of chemicals that cause injury to the brain and the consumption of oxygen by the brain. It also reduces the amount of acid in the brain, allowing neurons to stabilize, thus, helping to preserve brain function.

How Does it Work?

In the first method of therapeutic hypothermia, ice packs are placed in areas of the body which have the greatest amount of heat-exchange capacity such as the head, neck, axillae, and groin. When the ice packs have melted, they are replaced. This method is typically used if the patient will be transported to one of our sister OSF HealthCare facilities for further treatment.

Another method used to cool the patient is the cardiac cooling blanket; it is filled with cold water is placed on the patient. The blanket causes the patient's body temperature to drop to 94 degrees.

A combination of these methods is effective at cooling patients more rapidly and maintaining the target temperature. In this combination technique, the blanket is placed on the patient and then ice packs are applied. When the target body temperature is achieved, the ice packs are removed and the blanket is used to maintain the desired temperature for therapy.

The cooling process is done gradually and the results of the process are best when started within a six hour window from the onset of symptoms.

After up to 24 hours, or when physicians deem the patient ready, the patient is steadily re-warmed. The re-warming process is also done slowly and can take up to six hours.