Hypothermia treatments to prevent subsequent TBI damage may not work
For years, inducing a medical form of hypothermia has been seen as one of the only defenses to the second wave of injury caused by inflammation after traumatic brain injury. However, the actual science behind the treatment has been inconsistent.
Now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the process is ineffective.
Based on an examination of the long-term outcomes for more than 500 patients in six countries, researchers say that cooling the brain does little to nothing to improve long-term outcomes after a traumatic brain injury.
For the “prophylactic hypothermia to lessen traumatic brain injury” study – referred to as the POLAR study – an international team of researchers from countries ranging from France to Qatar divided patients with TBI into two groups. One of these groups received hypothermia treatment as soon as possible following their brain injury. The second group did not receive the treatment.
The study ran for seven years starting in 2010.
The group that received hypothermia treatments had their body temperatures reduced using a combination of cold saline administered intravenously and cold body wraps for between 3 and 7 days after injury. In many cases, the treatment was administered starting in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Despite this, lead researcher, Professor Jamie Cooper, says the hypothermia treatment delivered absolutely no benefits to a person’s ability to live independently after TBI. Both groups showed similar long-term outcomes with 49% of both groups going on to live independently.
“This study is the final word on whether hypothermia as a treatment for TBI works,” Professor Cooper, who is also Director of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care (ANZIC) Research Centre, said.
The findings are particularly important as hypothermia treatment involves a number of risks, including increased risk of infection, decreased heart rate, and blood pressure. When conducting hypothermia treatments, all of these factors must be monitored and managed, creating a significant strain on hospital staff.
“From now on, patients should not have to endure the risks of hypothermia because we now know there are no benefits,” Professor Cooper concluded.