News | October 20, 2010

Therapeutic Hypothermia Examined to Treat Pediatric Cardiac Arrest

October 20, 2010 - The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, has launched the first large-scale, multicenter study to investigate the effectiveness of body cooling treatment in infants and children who have had cardiac arrest.

Therapeutic hypothermia, or body cooling, has been successfully used in adults after cardiac arrest and in newborn infants after birth asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, to improve survival and outcomes, but it has not been studied in infants or children who have had cardiac arrest.

"Children who have experienced cardiac arrest can suffer long-term neurological damage or death," said NHLBI Acting Director Susan B. Shurin, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician. "There are abundant data demonstrating the benefits of hypothermia in adults with cardiac arrest, but very limited experience in children. This study begins to assess the effectiveness of therapeutic hypothermia in children, and should lead to evidence-based guidelines that will optimize both quality and rates of survival."

During body cooling treatment, participants lie on mattresses and are covered with blankets. Machines circulate water through the blankets and mattresses to control the participants' body temperatures.

According to a 2008 review of pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the journal Pediatrics, about 16,000 children suffer cardiac arrest each year in the United States. Their hearts stop pumping effectively and blood stops flowing to their brains and other vital organs. In many cases, the outcome is death or long-term disability.

Cardiac arrest in infants and children has many causes, such as strangulation, drowning, or trauma. It can also be a complication of many medical conditions.

Within each trial, there are two active treatment groups: therapeutic hypothermia (cooling the patient to 89.6-93.2 Fahrenheit) and therapeutic normothermia (maintaining the patient at 96.8-99.5 Fahrenheit). Both trials are trying to reduce fever, which commonly occurs after cardiac arrest and can lead to more severe outcomes.

For more information: http://clinicaltrials.gov/

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