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Sunday, 3 September, 2000, 00:52 GMT 01:52 UK
Cooling stroke patients 'boosts survival'
Stroke patient
Reducing body temperature may irmprove survival chances
Lowering the body temperature of stroke victims may be an effective way to reduce brain damage and risk of death, according to researchers.

A team of Danish researchers has found that lowering a stroke patient's body temperature by 1.3 Celsius within a few hours of the attack can have a significant positive impact.

Doctors have tried using hypothermia in unconscious, anaesthetised stroke patients.

It's very exciting but there are still a lot of very basic things we can now do in the UK that would save lives and reduce disability

Eoin Redahan, Stroke Association

But Dr Lars Kammersgaard and colleagues at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen wanted to see if the approach would work in a conscious patient.

The researchers cooled down 17 patients by pumping cool air into a thermal blanket to induce mild hypothermia.

The patients were kept cool for six hours, and were then monitored to see how they did.

Over six months, the patients who were cooled survived twice as well as those who did not.

Dr Kammersgaard said: "By showing that hypothermia can be successfully used without anaesthesia, we have suggested a method of treatment that appears to be low in cost and applicable in most hospitals involved in stroke treatment.

"By reducing the body temperature in the stroke patient, the brain receives cooled blood.

"Animal studies involving hypothermia strongly suggest that decreased brain temperature causes less destruction of brain tissue."

However, the researchers warn that much more work is needed before the procedure becomes common practice.

'Very exciting'

Eoin Redahan, of the Stroke Association, said: "This is very early research drawing on other work that has looked at cooling brains.

"It's very exciting but there are still a lot of very basic things we can now do in the UK that would save lives and reduce disability.

"We need to get the basics right before we can even consider introducing more specialist remedies."

Mr Redahan said only one-in-four patients end up in a stroke unit.

"This means that some 10,000 people each year are either dying when they could be saved or end up with serious disability.

"All because they didn't have access to a stroke unit.

"Another example is that few stroke patients have a brain scan within 24 hours.

"This research emphasises the need to have proper stroke services in this country or we won't be ready to get the benefits from this type of ground breaking research in the future."

The research is published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association.

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