Breaking Medical News and In Depth Medical Stories

Search News:
Hypothermia Therapy Not Beneficial for Children with Brain Injuries (Interview with James Hutchison, MD)
Hypothermia Therapy Not Beneficial for Children with Brain Injuries (Interview with James Hutchison, MD)

(June 4, 2008 - Insidermedicine) Placing children with traumatic brain injuries in a hypothermic state does not appear to protect their brain functioning and may even increase their risk of dying, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Here are some facts about traumatic brain injuries in children:

•    It is an injury to the head caused by a blunt instrument, something penetrating the head, or rapid acceleration and deceleration (such as in a car accident).

•    Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include decreased level of consciousness, memory loss, skull fracture, changes in neurological functioning or behavior, and death.

•    Traumatic brain injuries in children are relatively common. In those under 4, it is often the result of falls. In older children, it is more likely to occur due to traffic accidents.

Researchers from the University of Toronto randomly selected half of a group of 225 children with severe traumatic brain injuries to undergo hypothermia therapy, which consists of dropping body temperature down to 32.5°C for 24 hours within eight hours of the injury occurring. The remaining children were kept at a normal body temperature.

Six months later, 31% of the children in the hypothermia group had died, were suffering from severe disabilities, or were in a persistent vegetative state, compared with 22% of those who remained at normal temperature. Those who were cooled down also experienced more difficulty maintaining a steady blood pressure during the rewarming process.

We had a chance to speak with Dr. James Hutchison from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, who gave us some further insight into this study.

Today’s research demonstrates that while cooling the body has been shown to protect the brain in animals with head injuries, it does not appear to have the same benefits in children, and may even worsen their prognosis.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.