Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

'Hypothermia' may help save lives

Human heart
Cooling the heart immediately after a cardiac arrest could improve recovery

Scientists in Edinburgh have been studying the effects of cooling the body temperature of heart attack victims to improve survival rates.

The Emergency Medicine Research Group said that "therapeutic hypothermia" slows the release of harmful chemicals.

This is the first time the core body temperature of heart attack victims has been studied.

If the study is successful, the techniques could be delivered by paramedics.

Clinicians know that reducing the core body temperature of a cardiac arrest patient can help recovery but this is usually done in the intensive care unit, often several hours after the heart attack.

But the study, funded by Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, has investigated whether lowering core body temperatures at an early stage in cardiac arrest would result in improved recovery and survival rates and avoid brain damage.

This is another move towards helping the patient and we are hoping it will prove to be even more successful in helping the success rate from the recovery from cardiac arrest
Neil Provan
Scottish Ambulance Service

The study was led by Dr Richard Lyon from research group Topcat.

He said: "The cooling process somehow seems to preserve brain and body function.

"We know that cooling patients after a cardiac arrest is helpful, what we don't know is how to do it, when to start it and how long to do it for."

Dr Lyon said the next step in the research would be trialling the technique using a chilled saline drip.

This would be provided by paramedics.

Clinical Lead for the Scottish Ambulance Service Neil Provan said: "The changes that have taken place over the last 10 years are phenomenal and we are drastically improving the way we deal with cardiac arrests.

"This is another move towards helping the patient and we are hoping it will prove to be even more successful in helping the success rate from the recovery from cardiac arrest."



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