Therapeutic hypothermia is an important treatment for a comatose survivor of cardiac arrest, that is, a patient whose heart was restarted with advanced treatment after it stopped beating, but who remains minimally or completely unresponsive after resuscitation. Therapeutic hypothermia involves lowering the patient’s body temperature to about 33°C and then warming his or her body back to a normal temperature of 37°C. The treatment usually lasts about 72 hours.
Hypothermia protects the brain and other vital organs and has been shown to improve neurological outcomes and increases the chance of survival after cardiac arrest.
Cardiac Arrest and the Brain
Cardiac arrest can cause a lack of oxygen in the brain. When the supply of oxygen is interrupted for more than a few minutes, brain injury and other serious side effects can occur. These include behaviour changes and changes in motor skills. Oxygen deprivation can be mild, causing the slow onset of symptoms, or severe, leading to rapid changes.
Recovery from brain injury can be a long and challenging process. If someone in your family has a brain injury, you can play an important role in his or her recovery. It is important to remember that individuals with brain injuries recover at their own pace.