Induced hypothermia in the management of head trauma: A literature review

Tristan Ravenscroft
December 2012

Mild hypothermia treatment (MHT) involves a controlled decrease of core temperature in order to mitigate the secondary damage to organs that follows post primary injury. In the case of traumatic brain injury (TBI) suggestions that the brain could be conserved by cooling go back as far as the 1940s. The idea was to reduce cerebral metabolism and hypoxic insult by using MHT. However, more recent research suggests that this is a ‘simplistic view’ of brain cooling when there is in fact a much more complex web of effects that need to be understood and accounted. There clearly needs to be a variety of multi-disciplinary team based simultaneous pre-hospital and then in-hospital treatments to ameliorate harm (Nonmaleficence ) and enhance brain healing processes (Beneficence). Examination will take place of the varied probable mechanisms of action and contemporary evidence for and against the use of MHT in TBI. Discussion will range across issues such as target range of MHT, time to achieve this range, duration of cooling, and finally re-warming rates on neurological outcomes following TBI. This in turn, should create a clearer evidence base, for the UK paramedic practitioner who is considering using MHT in the pre-hospital setting in the minutes following TBI and inform decisions around: methods and timing of cooling; shivering prevention using sedation; reliable on-going monitoring of core temperature and team building with hospital services.

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