Emergency Services


Therapeutic Hypothermia

Therapeutic hypothermia is a treatment that helps protect neurological function following cardiac arrest. Therapeutic hypothermia is endorsed by the American Heart Association and is a method of lowering a patient's body temperature to between 90 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The therapy has been shown to protect the brain and other vital organs in comatose cardiac arrest survivors. The therapy is started after the patient has been resuscitated and will be continued for approximately 24 hours.

The cooling process lowers the body's oxygen requirements, decreases brain swelling and limits the release of toxins.

How Does Therapeutic Hypothermia Work?

The therapy can be administered in several ways:

  • Cooling wraps may be applied to the chest and legs to maintain body temperature
  • Chilled IV fluid may be given
  • Ice packs may be placed on the groin, neck or underarms
  • Medication can be given to prevent shivering, which can delay the cooling process

After approximately 24 hours, the body will be re-warmed slowly until the temperature returns to a normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to remember that cardiac arrest is a very critical illness and there is no guarantee that recovery will be possible. It may take up to 72 hours or more to regain consciousness. Patience during this period is encouraged.

About Our Staff

Emergency department, ICU and cardiac cath lab staff have been specially trained in therapeutic hypothermia. RWJ Hamilton's Emergency Department is staffed at all times with specialty trained emergency physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and registered nurses.

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