Want to increase a stroke patient’s chance of recovery? Put their brain on ice according to this article. Reducing body temperature involves lowering a person’s body temperature a couple of degrees to 35C, using ice cold intravenous drips and cooling pads.
The belief is that this creates a state of ‘artificial hibernation’ that slows the body and blood supply, which gives doctors more time to deal with burst or blocked blood vessels. The scientists estimate this treatment might improve the outcome of stroke for more than 40,000 Europeans every year.
A surgeon in Napoleon’s army first discovered the phenomenon, describing how wounded soldiers put close to the camp fire died, while those left in the snow survived. Then in 2002, two studies published in the New England Journal Of Medicine established the importance of body cooling after heart attacks. Researchers found patients whose bodies were cooled had improved survival rates, and that their brains functioned better in the months following the heart attack. The American Heart Association recommended reducing body temperatures in the comatose survivors of cardiac arrest. I remember seeing a documentary about someone who had got trapped in ice for around 24 hours, but survived, that talked about this idea of body cooling as the reason for her survival too.
Ok so the idea of therapeutic hypothermia (reduction in core body temperature) as a medical treatment is not new, but a bigger trial is now required. This has been proposed and researchers are hopeful that 1,500 people in 80 hospitals from 21 countries will take part in the proposed study.
I hope this article was of interest to you. It is counter intituitive to me to think that cooling down the body can actually be a good thing, but that is what makes this research so enthralling.
Look out for more blog posts coming soon about stroke, particularly travelling after a stroke.