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Cooling Someone to Reduce Severity of Brain Injury Does Not Work, Says New Research

brain injuryEvery year, two million people around the world experience traumatic brain injuries (TBI); fifty thousand of these victims succumb to their injuries and die. Common causes of TBIs include road accidents involving cars, trucks or motorcycles; serious falls; sports and playground accidents; and assault.

Given the size and scale of this health problem, researchers across the globe have been investigating diverse treatment ideas. One common method used by caregivers in Europe and North America involves cooling the body temperature of head injury patients to between two and five degrees below normal. Doctors give patients ice cold IV drips and cover their bodies with cooling blankets. After about 48 hours, doctors slowly re-warm patients to their normal body temperatures. The procedure does reduce brain swelling, and doctors and researchers had believed the practice might reduce the chances of future disability and death for traumatic brain injury victims.

After recognizing the dearth of hypothermia treatment clinical trials for traumatic brain injury patients in the published literature, however, doctors at the University of Edinburgh led an international study to measure the long term effects of induced hypothermia on such patients. The results were not good. In fact, the doctors ended the study early, because they grew to fear that exposing TBI patients to hypothermia treatment might actually harm them.

Eurotherm3235 Brain Injury Trial Results

The study involved 400 patients with TBIs from 18 different countries. Researchers divided them into two groups. One group received the hypothermia treatment. The other group, the control group, received standard care without hypothermia. The hypothermia successfully reduced swelling and pressure on the brain. Six months later, however, patients in the hypothermia group were much worse off physically than those who had received standard care.

Only 25 percent of the patients who received hypothermia treatment achieved a favorable outcome with only moderate disability. The control group achieved a 37 percent success rate – a statistically significant difference. Peter J.D. Andrews, M.D., author of the study concluded, “This well conducted trial has shown that hypothermia can successfully reduce brain pressure following trauma, but after six months, functional recovery was significantly worse than standard care alone.” The full study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If you or someone you love suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury in an accident – for instance, if an out of control truck driver forced you off the side of the highway into a divider or a careless teen driver texting on his iPhone t-boned your motorcycle at an intersection – our experienced Denver brain injury attorneys can review the circumstances of your injury as well as the medical treatment provided and provide insight about what to do next. Call or email our team for a free consultation.



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