Therapeutic Hypothermia

Early intervention is often the difference between life and death with a heart attack happens.

One highly effective therapy for people who have suffered ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF)—commonly referred to as a heart attack—involves rapid cooling of the body. It’s an unusual treatment called therapeutic hypothermia and it has helped save lives at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

Cooling the Body to Save the Person: Therapeutic Hypothermia

When a body gets cooled rapidly, its systems slow down. That logic is one of the keys behind therapeutic hypothermia: Within 6 to 8 hours of an episode, heart attack patients are quickly cooled down to 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit. With that cooling comes a slowed metabolic rate in the brain. Both of those things work together to decrease the amount of oxygen needed and help slow damage to the brain. The cooling also suppresses free radical production, which also protects brain cells. Sedatives help to suppress shivering until the person can be slowly rewarmed to normal body temperature.

It’s fairly uncommon for a hospital the size of Mary Greeley Medical Center to have the equipment and training to perform therapeutic hypothermia. But the hospital felt that eliminating the 30-minute transport time to Des Moines was crucial and that the new therapy offered a complement to the hospital’s existing cardiac cath lab and 24-hour hospitalist program.

Julie Schwery

Patient Stories

How an emergency treatment for heart attack victims at Mary Greeley Medical Center saved Julie's life.

Read Julie's story.

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