Entries in hypothermia (6)


Post-Sandy Nor'easter Poses Hypothermia Risk

Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As those facing the devastation left in the wake of superstorm Sandy continue to seek shelter, meteorologists point to a new threat -- a nor'easter heading for devastated areas.

The storm could pack 50 mph gusts in coastal areas, 1 to 3 inches of rain from New York to Boston and a continuation of the frigid temperatures that followed last week's superstorm.

It's a situation that has some doctors worried that many of those affected by Sandy could face a life-threatening situation in the form of hypothermia.

"Many left without power and heat will be at risk of hypothermia as the nor'easter is scheduled to hit the New York City and New Jersey area," said Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist, assistant professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

The strong wind and rain is expected to hit the New Jersey and New York coast early Wednesday morning.  Some models are also predicting a 40-50 percent chance of snow in the metro New York area by Wednesday night, and winds up to 40 mph are expected to continue into Thursday.

The Red Cross is increasing efforts in New York, offering shelter to roughly 9,000 people and handing out an additional 80,000 blankets Monday night -- a clear indication of where the organization's concerns lie when it comes to those without heat or shelter.

"Certainly one of our biggest concerns is the cold, because you have people without power," said Red Cross spokeswoman Melanie Pipkin.  "We're ramping up our efforts so these people have even more blankets, more hand warmers.  We really want to make sure everyone stays warm."

Hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  This puts people at risk to develop serious lung, heart, or nervous system problems, sometimes leading to death.

Symptoms of hypothermia include appearing confused or intoxicated or shivering, although shivering actually stops at severely cold body temperatures.

"As people get colder, they actually stop shivering, losing their ability to retain any heat," said Dr. Darria Gillespie, emergency physician at Harvard Medical School in Boston.  "They may also almost appear intoxicated, with confusion, clumsiness, slurred speech, and fatigue."

In the most serious of cases, the potential complications from hypothermia can be severe, even fatal.

"The complications can range from minor cold related illness to death from prolonged exposure or complications from prolonged exposure," said Dr. Henderson McGinnis, emergency physician at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The very young and very old may be at the highest risk.

"The elderly often have difficulty with thermoregulation and infants have a relatively larger body surface area thus are at increase heat loss risk," said Dr. Christopher Russi, emergency physician at the Mayo Clinic.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Those Without Power After Sandy Risk Hypothermia

Bananastock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With millions of people still without power after superstorm Sandy, many may be looking at some very cold nights ahead — which means they may find themselves at risk of hypothermia, or cold stress.

Hypothermia occurs when your internal core body temperature drops to 96 degrees or less. While anyone can experience it, the elderly are at particular risk and can suffer from this in houses even at temperatures in the low 60s. Even more frightening, hypothermia can be deadly if not recognized and treated.

Possible signs that someone is experiencing hypothermia include confusion, sleepiness, slurred speech and/or shivering.  People with hypothermia may also have a weak pulse and unsteady movements.

Here are some tips for preventing hypothermia if you don’t have heat in your home:

  • First, if you are at increased risk, evacuate to a shelter with heat if at all possible. It’s not worth the risk to brave it out at home.
  • If you can’t evacuate, wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothes.  The loose layers will trap warm air between them and help to insulate you and keep you warm.
  • Wear long underwear, socks and slippers, and cover up with blankets.
  • Wear a hat indoors. We lose a lot of body heat through our heads.
  • Move around. The activity will help raise your core temperature.
  • When temperatures drop, many people reach for alcohol because they think it warms them up — but it actually drops your temperature. So don’t drink to stave off cold temperatures.

Most importantly, if you develop any of the signs or symptoms of hypothermia, seek help immediately.

Adapted from:

For more information and tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scientists to Test Extreme Hypothermia on Pittsburgh Trauma Patients

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- It worked on Star Trek, now, researchers are putting a type of suspended animation to the test, investigating whether putting trauma patients into a deep chill might help save their lives.

To test this idea, doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will use an experimental technique on Pittsburgh residents who wind up in the trauma center.

The idea is that wounded patients who are bleeding to death can be saved by lowering their body temperature to about 50 degrees.  By inducing hypothermia in these patients, doctors hope to buy time to repair their wounds.

Dr. Samuel Tisherman, a critical care specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the lead researcher of the study, said he hopes the procedure also will give trauma patients a chance to survive without extensive brain damage.

"If a patient is losing a lot of blood and the brain doesn't have oxygen, you can start to see damage after about four or five minutes," Tisherman said.  "If you can cool the brain down fast enough, you could buy 20 minutes, 40 minutes, maybe up to an hour."

Gunshot or stab wounds often cause so much bleeding that patients' hearts stop beating, bringing them into cardiac arrest.  Giving CPR to jumpstart the heart doesn't help because there is not enough blood for the heart to circulate to revive patients.

Operating to repair these wounds is difficult, since the excessive bleeding keeps trauma surgeons from clearly seeing what they're doing.  These patients' chances of survival hover at just 7 percent.

Using extreme hypothermia, doctors would try to slow down a patient's bleeding and put the body's blood-dependent systems on ice.  The deep-chilling process would begin by injecting an ice-cold solution into trauma patients in cardiac arrest.

After about 15 minutes, the patient should be chilled to about 50 degrees, and surgeons can get to work repairing bleeding tissues, ideally taking no more than an hour to finish.  Then patients would be gradually warmed back up again to a normal body temperature.

Tisherman calls the process Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation -- EPR instead of CPR.  The project is receiving funding from the Department of Defense.

Tisherman said the University of Pittsburgh trauma team will use deep-chilling procedure on only about 10 patients initially.  If the treatment works, emergency physicians say it will be a big step forward in treating trauma patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Paralyzed Gymnast Walks After 'Frozen Spine' Treatment

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MIAMI) -- When a double-flip gone awry left gymnast Jorge Valdez, 20, paralyzed with a dislocated neck, doctors feared he would never walk again.  But just seven days after surgeons opted for a still-experimental treatment involving induced hypothermia, Valdez walked out of the hospital.

Valdez was practicing a double flip while making an audition video for the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil when he misjudged his rotation and landed on his head, dislocating his C6 and C7 vertebrae.

"I was unable to move after that, I couldn't feel my legs.  I could only open and close my hands a little," Valdez, a Miami native, said.  "I was scared.  I've been injured before pretty bad, but nothing this bad."

He was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where doctors determined he was a candidate for a cooling procedure that is thought to slow spinal cord damage by reducing swelling at the injury site.

Valdez was a good candidate for cooling because he had an isolated injury and he was a healthy guy with no other medical conditions, said Dr. Steven Vanni, a neurosurgeon at the University of Miami, who treated Valdez.  Though he had been able to move his arms after the injury, by the time he was brought to Vanni, he had no motor or sensory function below his neck, making it difficult to predict how much function he would ultimately recover.

"He told my dad he couldn't guarantee that I'd be able to walk again," Valdez says.

After surgeons removed the disc that was pressing on the spine and fixed the dislocations, a catheter cooled by chilled saline was inserted into Valdez's groin.  The chilled catheter cooled down his blood as it passed through it, his internal body temperature down to about 92 degrees Fahrenheit.  He was kept in a medically-induced coma and in that hypothermic state for 48 hours post-operation.

"I woke up and thought it was the day of the surgery [Thursday], when really it was Saturday," Valdez says.  By that Wednesday, he was walking on his own.

Now out of the hospital, Valdez's physical therapy focuses primarily on his hands, where he has some nerve damage.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arctic Blast Increases Risk of Frostbite, Hypothermia

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As many Americans feel the arctic blast moving across the country, doctors are warning people to take extra care in bundling up and staying out of the cold.

Frostbite, in particular, is a major threat; it can occur in under a minute at extremely cold temperatures.  The term is shorthand for the literal freezing of body tissue, usually skin.  The most vulnerable areas to frostbite include fingers, toes, noses, cheeks, and ears.

According to the National Weather Service, frostbite can occur within 5 minutes in temperatures between 0 degrees and -19 degrees Fahrenheit.

The initial stage of frostbite usually affects the top skin layers and does not lead to long-term damage.  As freezing continues, second-degree frostbite may set in.  The skin can become hard and waxy, and blisters may form a day or two after the freezing.

Third degree frostbite consists of a deep frostbite, where the skin turns blue or black, and the muscles, nerves, and vessels have all frozen as well.  The area is temporarily debilitated, and, in some cases, permanently damaged.

In extreme cases of frostbite, the area can be infected with gangrene, where the affected body part will eventually fall off if it is not amputated first.

And, in a tidbit that could surprise even the most avid of winter athletes, Dr. Sandra Schneider, professor and chair emeritus of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center said: "It's better to leave a frostbitten area frozen then to go through a freeze, thaw, freeze, and thaw period."

Repetitive warming and freezing can cause ice crystals in the tissue, which only multiplies the damage done to the frostbitten skin.

Along with frostbite, hypothermia is another cold weather condition that can be dangerous to people unprepared for the weather.  It occurs when body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

"As the body temperature goes down, people will begin to shiver in order for the body to generate heat," said Dr. Lewis Marshall, chairman of emergency medicine at Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York.  "As the body temperature falls below 90 degrees, shivering stops and body can no longer regulate temperature. "

Other symptoms of hypothermia include clumsiness and confusion, drowsiness, a weak pulse, and shallow breathing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Beware of Slips and Falls, Frostbite and Hypothermia, Doctors Warn

Photo Courtesy - Chris McGrath/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Dr. Gabriel Wilson, associate medical director at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, worked his emergency room shift until 3 a.m. Monday. He cared for three people who sustained wrist fractures, one person with an ankle fracture and two who had received blows to the head. Every injury stemmed from slips on ice and snow.

"These are the typical snow-related injuries, and the only thing one can do, other than being careful walking in the snow, is to wear padded gloves, jackets and hats, which may cushion the fall," said Wilson.

Winter weather conditions have gripped most of the Northeast, causing travel delays and cancellations galore. As the blizzard tapers off and people are left to re-book flights and trek through piles of snow, doctors warn people to take special care.

Dr. Richard Bradley, associate professor of emergency medicine and chief of EMS and disaster medicine at University of Texas Medical School at Houston, reiterated the importance of keeping warm during the plummeting temperatures.

"The onset of hypothermia can be very difficult to detect," said Bradley. "We lose a lot of people every year from it, because people often don't realize they're becoming hypothermic."

Bradley said people often chalk up hypothermia symptoms to feeling sleepy or fatigued. "But as the hypothermia worsens, people realize even less that they're getting colder," said Bradley. "We see this a lot in people who are alone and don't have anyone to say, 'Hey, you don't look so good.'"

Dr. Hersch Leon Pachter, a professor and chairman of the department of surgery at New York University School of Medicine, said hypothermic patients who come into the emergency room are often homeless.

"A lot of people off the street come in with hypothermia," said Pachter. "They're sleeping outside and being exposed to the elements."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio