Dispatch: Ambulatory Patients Cool Off, Literally

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In January 2009, 20 New York City hospitals began use of therapeutic hypothermia — a treatment that lowers a patient’s body temperature using cold packs, chilled saline injections or other equipment — to increase survival rates in cardiac arrest patients. The number of participating hospitals has since grown to 43, and on Monday, city officials stated that one-third of paramedics will receive training to administer the cooling therapyas well.

“It’s a very interesting hypothesis — that you can slow the brain’s demand for oxygen and prevent cell damage by lowering a person’s body temperature by about six degrees for 24 hours,” says Dr. Whelan.

Last year, survival rates increased by 20 percent for patients with cardiac arrest who underwent cooling therapy, compared to 2008, when the therapy wasn’t available.

Noting that the arctic temperature in the ACSH office this summer has led staffers to bundle up in sweaters, Stier jokes, “I think the ambulance should just bring patients straight to our building instead.”