New treatment of cool and "rewarming" cardiac patients cuts death rate

Cooling the bodies of cardiac arrest patients to below normal, then "rewarming" them, can help to cut death rates and limit brain damage, doctors at Singapore General Hospital have found.

Preliminary results from a clinical trial on 40 patients found a 25 per cent increase in survival rate in patients given the cooling treatment, called therapeutic hypothermia.

The new method involves rapidly cooling the person's body to between 32 and 34 degree Celsius. There are two methods: pumping cool saline into a catheter that is inserted into the patient's body or wrapping cool gel pads around the patient. This is maintained for 12 to 24 hours, after which the person is gradually warmed back to normal body temperature of about 37 degrees Celsius.

This spells significant promise for the 1,500 people a year who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, given that the survival rate is a 2.7 per cent.