Heart Attack Plus Hypothermia Equals Alive And Well?
New therapeutic hypothermia treatment for cardiac arrest patients proves successful
When patients experience a heart attack, their heart stops beating, usually due to a clot in one of the vessels. Part of the heart dies and blood flow to the brain is restricted.
As a result of prolonged cardiac arrest, patients are prone to experiencing neurological damage as well as death. In an attempt to minimize the negative effects caused by heart attacks, Tarzana Medical Center's emergency department has instituted a new hypothermia procedure which aims to slow down the patient's blood flow.
In the new procedure, a machine is used to regulate water temperature in gel wraps which are then applied to the patient's legs and chest. As cold water flows through the wraps, the patient's body temperature is reduced to 92 degrees, slowing their blood flow and reducing their brain's need for oxygen. In effect, by cooling down the body, energy is conserved.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 57 percent of patients who had not received cooling treatment after suffering prolonged cardiac arrest died or suffered substantial brain damage. With the new hypothermic treatment, these risks have been reduced to 37 percent.
Within the past month, Tarzana Medical Center has successfully treated three patients with the new procedure, including Maria Ramos, 39, who was walking and talking within days of her heart attack.
Encouraged by the recent results, Providence Health & Services has decided to implement the procedure in two other hospitals in the area: Providence Holy Cross in Mission Hills, and Providence Saint Joseph in Burbank. The treatment will not only be used in the emergency rooms, but throughout each medical center.
"We've done cooling measures for quite a long time, but there's never been a concerted effort to go hospital-wide with the process, so that anyone who has a cardiac arrest in the local community or arrests in the hospital, has the
ability to benefit from the protocol," stated G. Scott Brewster, M.D., director of the Emergency Department at Providence Tarzana. "We're creating a standardized approach that's literature-based and coordinated between the Emergency Department and the ICU."
Patients who suffer a massive heart attack will be taken to one of the certified hospitals. To receive certification, hospitals must prove their ability to quickly treat these patients and must show that they have adequate facilities as well as specialty physicians.