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Hypothermia

Hypothermia can be defined as a drop in the core body temperature Body Temperature The measure of the level of heat of a human or animal. Heatstroke below 35°C (95°F) and is classified into mild, moderate, severe, and profound forms based on the degree of temperature decrease. Certain populations may be more vulnerable to accidental hypothermia, including extremes of age, homeless, mentally ill, and alcohol and drug abusers. Evaluation should include assessment for associated trauma and contributing medical conditions. Management involves rewarming the patient by different methods based on the severity of the hypothermia.

Last updated: Jul 18, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Overview

Definition

Hypothermia is a decrease in core body temperature Body Temperature The measure of the level of heat of a human or animal. Heatstroke to below 35°C (95°F).

Epidemiology

  • More common in cold climates, but occurs throughout the world
  • In-hospital mortality Mortality All deaths reported in a given population. Measures of Health Status for moderate and severe hypothermia is 40%.
  • Risk factors:
    • Homelessness
    • Alcohol intoxication Alcohol intoxication An acute brain syndrome which results from the excessive ingestion of ethanol or alcoholic beverages. Alcohol Use Disorder
    • Substance abuse
    • Advanced age
    • Psychiatric disease

Etiology

  • Prolonged exposure to cold environmental temperatures:
    • Outdoor exposures
    • Cold water submersions
  • Predisposing factors include:
    • Decreased heat production Heat Production Fever:
      • Adrenal insufficiency Adrenal Insufficiency Conditions in which the production of adrenal corticosteroids falls below the requirement of the body. Adrenal insufficiency can be caused by defects in the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland, or the hypothalamus. Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison’s Disease
      • Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism
      • Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia is an emergency condition defined as a serum glucose level ≤ 70 mg/dL (≤ 3.9 mmol/L) in diabetic patients. In nondiabetic patients, there is no specific or defined limit for normal serum glucose levels, and hypoglycemia is defined mainly by its clinical features. Hypoglycemia
      • Immobility
      • Extremes of age (neonates, elderly)
    • Increased heat Heat Inflammation loss: 
      • Skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions diseases ( burns Burns A burn is a type of injury to the skin and deeper tissues caused by exposure to heat, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. Burns are classified according to their depth as superficial (1st-degree), partial-thickness (2nd-degree), full-thickness (3rd-degree), and 4th-degree burns. Burns)
      • Ethanol Ethanol A clear, colorless liquid rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and distributed throughout the body. It has bactericidal activity and is used often as a topical disinfectant. It is widely used as a solvent and preservative in pharmaceutical preparations as well as serving as the primary ingredient in alcoholic beverages. Ethanol Metabolism (impaired responses to cold/ shivering Shivering Involuntary contraction or twitching of the muscles. It is a physiologic method of heat production in man and other mammals. Body Temperature Regulation, vasodilation Vasodilation The physiological widening of blood vessels by relaxing the underlying vascular smooth muscle. Pulmonary Hypertension Drugs)
    • Impaired thermoregulation Thermoregulation Body temperature can be divided into external temperature, which involves the skin, and core temperature, which involves the CNS and viscera. While external temperature can be variable, the core temperature is maintained within a narrow range of 36.5-37.5ºC (97.7-99.5ºF). Body Temperature Regulation:
      • Central nervous system Central nervous system The main information-processing organs of the nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, and meninges. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification (CNS) pathology
      • Drugs (antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives)
      • Spinal cord injuries Spinal cord injuries Spinal cord injuries are complex injuries that involve damage to the neural tissue within the spinal canal. Spinal cord injuries are commonly the result of trauma. Clinical presentation varies depending on the site of injury and on whether the injury is complete or incomplete. Spinal Cord Injuries 
      • Polytrauma Polytrauma Multitrauma occurs when 2 or more traumatic injuries occur in at least 2 areas of the body. A systematic management approach is necessary for individuals who have undergone trauma to maximize outcomes and reduce the risk of undiscovered injuries. Multitrauma
Skiing uphill

Accidental hypothermia results from exposure to cold temperatures.

Image: “Skiing uphill” by Free-Photos. License: Pixabay License

Pathophysiology

Mechanisms of heat Heat Inflammation loss

  • Heat Heat Inflammation is lost mainly through the skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions and lungs Lungs Lungs are the main organs of the respiratory system. Lungs are paired viscera located in the thoracic cavity and are composed of spongy tissue. The primary function of the lungs is to oxygenate blood and eliminate CO2. Lungs: Anatomy:
    • Evaporation
    • Radiation Radiation Emission or propagation of acoustic waves (sound), electromagnetic energy waves (such as light; radio waves; gamma rays; or x-rays), or a stream of subatomic particles (such as electrons; neutrons; protons; or alpha particles). Osteosarcoma
    • Conduction
    • Convection
  • Most common in accidental hypothermia:
    • Convective loss to air
    • Conductive loss to water

Pathogenesis

  • Normal set point for human core temperature is 37°C ∓ 0.5°C (98.6°F).
  • Body uses autonomic mechanisms to conserve heat Heat Inflammation in response to a cold environment.
  • Hypothalamus Hypothalamus The hypothalamus is a collection of various nuclei within the diencephalon in the center of the brain. The hypothalamus plays a vital role in endocrine regulation as the primary regulator of the pituitary gland, and it is the major point of integration between the central nervous and endocrine systems. Hypothalamus stimulates heat production Heat Production Fever through:
    • Shivering Shivering Involuntary contraction or twitching of the muscles. It is a physiologic method of heat production in man and other mammals. Body Temperature Regulation:
      • ↑ Metabolism
      • Ventilation Ventilation The total volume of gas inspired or expired per unit of time, usually measured in liters per minute. Ventilation: Mechanics of Breathing
      • Cardiac output Cardiac output The volume of blood passing through the heart per unit of time. It is usually expressed as liters (volume) per minute so as not to be confused with stroke volume (volume per beat). Cardiac Mechanics
    • Thyroid Thyroid The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in the human body. The thyroid gland is a highly vascular, brownish-red gland located in the visceral compartment of the anterior region of the neck. Thyroid Gland: Anatomy hormone
    • Catecholamines Catecholamines A general class of ortho-dihydroxyphenylalkylamines derived from tyrosine. Adrenal Hormones
  • Peripheral vasoconstriction Vasoconstriction The physiological narrowing of blood vessels by contraction of the vascular smooth muscle. Vascular Resistance, Flow, and Mean Arterial Pressure helps conserve heat Heat Inflammation.
  • Once the core temperature reaches 32°C (89.6°F), shivering Shivering Involuntary contraction or twitching of the muscles. It is a physiologic method of heat production in man and other mammals. Body Temperature Regulation becomes less effective.
  • Metabolism, ventilation Ventilation The total volume of gas inspired or expired per unit of time, usually measured in liters per minute. Ventilation: Mechanics of Breathing, and cardiac output Cardiac output The volume of blood passing through the heart per unit of time. It is usually expressed as liters (volume) per minute so as not to be confused with stroke volume (volume per beat). Cardiac Mechanics begin to decline.

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Clinical Presentation

General manifestations

  • Cardiac (arrhythmias, bradycardia Bradycardia Bradyarrhythmia is a rhythm in which the heart rate is less than 60/min. Bradyarrhythmia can be physiologic, without symptoms or hemodynamic change. Pathologic bradyarrhythmia results in reduced cardiac output and hemodynamic instability causing syncope, dizziness, or dyspnea. Bradyarrhythmias, asystole Asystole No discernible electrical activity, flatline on electrocardiogram (P waves and QRS complexes are not present). Cardiac Arrest)
  • Vascular (peripheral vasoconstriction Vasoconstriction The physiological narrowing of blood vessels by contraction of the vascular smooth muscle. Vascular Resistance, Flow, and Mean Arterial Pressure)
  • Neurologic ( altered mental status Altered Mental Status Sepsis in Children, coma Coma Coma is defined as a deep state of unarousable unresponsiveness, characterized by a score of 3 points on the GCS. A comatose state can be caused by a multitude of conditions, making the precise epidemiology and prognosis of coma difficult to determine. Coma)
  • Hypovolemia Hypovolemia Sepsis in Children (cold diuresis)
  • Respiratory depression

Stages of hypothermia

  • Mild hypothermia (32°C–35°C (89.6°F–95°F)):
    • Shivering Shivering Involuntary contraction or twitching of the muscles. It is a physiologic method of heat production in man and other mammals. Body Temperature Regulation is maximal.
    • Dysarthria Dysarthria Disorders of speech articulation caused by imperfect coordination of pharynx, larynx, tongue, or face muscles. This may result from cranial nerve diseases; neuromuscular diseases; cerebellar diseases; basal ganglia diseases; brain stem diseases; or diseases of the corticobulbar tracts. The cortical language centers are intact in this condition. Wilson’s Disease and ataxia Ataxia Impairment of the ability to perform smoothly coordinated voluntary movements. This condition may affect the limbs, trunk, eyes, pharynx, larynx, and other structures. Ataxia may result from impaired sensory or motor function. Sensory ataxia may result from posterior column injury or peripheral nerve diseases. Motor ataxia may be associated with cerebellar diseases; cerebral cortex diseases; thalamic diseases; basal ganglia diseases; injury to the red nucleus; and other conditions. Ataxia-telangiectasia develop.
    • Patient is apathetic.
    • Tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children
    • Tachypnea Tachypnea Increased respiratory rate. Pulmonary Examination
  • Moderate hypothermia (29°C–32°C (84.2°F–89.6°F)):
    • Shivering Shivering Involuntary contraction or twitching of the muscles. It is a physiologic method of heat production in man and other mammals. Body Temperature Regulation ceases.
    • Lethargic and stuporous, pupils dilate
    • Hyporeflexia Hyporeflexia Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
    • Bradycardia Bradycardia Bradyarrhythmia is a rhythm in which the heart rate is less than 60/min. Bradyarrhythmia can be physiologic, without symptoms or hemodynamic change. Pathologic bradyarrhythmia results in reduced cardiac output and hemodynamic instability causing syncope, dizziness, or dyspnea. Bradyarrhythmias is universal and atrial dysrhythmias are common.
    • Respiratory depression begins.
  • Severe hypothermia (22°C–28°C (71.6°F–82.4°F)):
    • Coma Coma Coma is defined as a deep state of unarousable unresponsiveness, characterized by a score of 3 points on the GCS. A comatose state can be caused by a multitude of conditions, making the precise epidemiology and prognosis of coma difficult to determine. Coma develops, and reflexes and voluntary motion are absent.
    • Ventricular dysrhythmias ( ventricular fibrillation Ventricular fibrillation Ventricular fibrillation (VF or V-fib) is a type of ventricular tachyarrhythmia (> 300/min) often preceded by ventricular tachycardia. In this arrhythmia, the ventricle beats rapidly and sporadically. The ventricular contraction is uncoordinated, leading to a decrease in cardiac output and immediate hemodynamic collapse. Ventricular Fibrillation (V-fib))
    • Respiratory depression or apnea
    • Hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension is expected.
    • Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excess fluid within the lung parenchyma and alveoli as a consequence of a disease process. Based on etiology, pulmonary edema is classified as cardiogenic or noncardiogenic. Patients may present with progressive dyspnea, orthopnea, cough, or respiratory failure. Pulmonary Edema
  • Profound hypothermia (< 22°C (< 71.6°F)):
    • All neurologic signs of life are absent.
    • Profound bradycardia Bradycardia Bradyarrhythmia is a rhythm in which the heart rate is less than 60/min. Bradyarrhythmia can be physiologic, without symptoms or hemodynamic change. Pathologic bradyarrhythmia results in reduced cardiac output and hemodynamic instability causing syncope, dizziness, or dyspnea. Bradyarrhythmias/ asystole Asystole No discernible electrical activity, flatline on electrocardiogram (P waves and QRS complexes are not present). Cardiac Arrest and apnea are expected.
Hypothermia

Clinical presentation of mild hypothermia

Image by Lecturio.

Diagnosis

Physical exam

  • Full body survey:
    • Assess for signs of trauma.
    • Assume the possibility of spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy injury until reliably ruled out.
    • Local temperature-related injuries ( frostbite Frostbite Injuries due to cold weather are common among children and athletes who are involved in sports played in cold conditions. Frostbite is a direct freezing injury to the peripheral tissues and occurs when the skin temperature drops below 0°C (32°F). Common sites of frostbite include the nose, ears, fingers, and toes. Frostbite)
    • Patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship need to be handled gently: Rough maneuvers may precipitate arrhythmias.
  • Temperature measurements:
    • Need to have a low-reading thermometer (below 34°C (93.2°F))
    • Esophageal probe Probe A device placed on the patient’s body to visualize a target Ultrasound (Sonography): most reliable measurement of core temperature
    • Rectal or bladder Bladder A musculomembranous sac along the urinary tract. Urine flows from the kidneys into the bladder via the ureters, and is held there until urination. Pyelonephritis and Perinephric Abscess probe Probe A device placed on the patient’s body to visualize a target Ultrasound (Sonography): can be used in mild-to-moderate hypothermia

Laboratory studies

  • Healthy patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship with mild accidental hypothermia may not require laboratory investigation. 
  • Patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship with moderate or severe hypothermia may need the following studies:
    • Blood chemistry:
      • Glucose Glucose A primary source of energy for living organisms. It is naturally occurring and is found in fruits and other parts of plants in its free state. It is used therapeutically in fluid and nutrient replacement. Lactose Intolerance level for hypo- or hyperglycemia Hyperglycemia Abnormally high blood glucose level. Diabetes Mellitus
      • Hyperkalemia Hyperkalemia Hyperkalemia is defined as a serum potassium (K+) concentration >5.2 mEq/L. Homeostatic mechanisms maintain the serum K+ concentration between 3.5 and 5.2 mEq/L, despite marked variation in dietary intake. Hyperkalemia can be due to a variety of causes, which include transcellular shifts, tissue breakdown, inadequate renal excretion, and drugs. Hyperkalemia or hypokalemia Hypokalemia Hypokalemia is defined as plasma potassium (K+) concentration < 3.5 mEq/L. Homeostatic mechanisms maintain plasma concentration between 3.5-5.2 mEq/L despite marked variation in dietary intake. Hypokalemia can be due to renal losses, GI losses, transcellular shifts, or poor dietary intake. Hypokalemia
      • Blood urea Urea A compound formed in the liver from ammonia produced by the deamination of amino acids. It is the principal end product of protein catabolism and constitutes about one half of the total urinary solids. Urea Cycle nitrogen Nitrogen An element with the atomic symbol n, atomic number 7, and atomic weight [14. 00643; 14. 00728]. Nitrogen exists as a diatomic gas and makes up about 78% of the earth’s atmosphere by volume. It is a constituent of proteins and nucleic acids and found in all living cells. Urea Cycle (BUN) and creatinine may indicate renal injury.
      • Lactic acidosis Acidosis A pathologic condition of acid accumulation or depletion of base in the body. The two main types are respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis, due to metabolic acid build up. Respiratory Acidosis
      • Creatine Creatine An amino acid that occurs in vertebrate tissues and in urine. In muscle tissue, creatine generally occurs as phosphocreatine. Creatine is excreted as creatinine in the urine. Acute Kidney Injury phosphokinase (CPK) (for possible rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis is characterized by muscle necrosis and the release of toxic intracellular contents, especially myoglobin, into the circulation. Rhabdomyolysis)
      • Electrolytes Electrolytes Electrolytes are mineral salts that dissolve in water and dissociate into charged particles called ions, which can be either be positively (cations) or negatively (anions) charged. Electrolytes are distributed in the extracellular and intracellular compartments in different concentrations. Electrolytes are essential for various basic life-sustaining functions. Electrolytes need to be monitored during rewarming.
    • Lipase Lipase An enzyme of the hydrolase class that catalyzes the reaction of triacylglycerol and water to yield diacylglycerol and a fatty acid anion. It is produced by glands on the tongue and by the pancreas and initiates the digestion of dietary fats. Malabsorption and Maldigestion for cold-induced ischemic pancreatitis Pancreatitis Inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is classified as acute unless there are computed tomographic or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographic findings of chronic pancreatitis. The two most common forms of acute pancreatitis are alcoholic pancreatitis and gallstone pancreatitis. Acute Pancreatitis
    • Complete blood count (CBC):
      • Hematocrit Hematocrit The volume of packed red blood cells in a blood specimen. The volume is measured by centrifugation in a tube with graduated markings, or with automated blood cell counters. It is an indicator of erythrocyte status in disease. For example, anemia shows a low value; polycythemia, a high value. Neonatal Polycythemia can be elevated from hypovolemia Hypovolemia Sepsis in Children.
      • Low platelet count or white blood cells from splenic or liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy sequestration
    • Coagulation profile for coagulopathy
    • Ethanol Ethanol A clear, colorless liquid rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and distributed throughout the body. It has bactericidal activity and is used often as a topical disinfectant. It is widely used as a solvent and preservative in pharmaceutical preparations as well as serving as the primary ingredient in alcoholic beverages. Ethanol Metabolism level
    • Arterial blood gas Arterial blood gas Respiratory Alkalosis (ABG) for metabolic acidosis Acidosis A pathologic condition of acid accumulation or depletion of base in the body. The two main types are respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis, due to metabolic acid build up. Respiratory Acidosis

Other studies

  • Chest X-ray Chest X-ray X-ray visualization of the chest and organs of the thoracic cavity. It is not restricted to visualization of the lungs. Pulmonary Function Tests ( CXR CXR X-ray visualization of the chest and organs of the thoracic cavity. It is not restricted to visualization of the lungs. Pulmonary Function Tests) to evaluate for pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excess fluid within the lung parenchyma and alveoli as a consequence of a disease process. Based on etiology, pulmonary edema is classified as cardiogenic or noncardiogenic. Patients may present with progressive dyspnea, orthopnea, cough, or respiratory failure. Pulmonary Edema
  • Electrocardiogram Electrocardiogram An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a graphic representation of the electrical activity of the heart plotted against time. Adhesive electrodes are affixed to the skin surface allowing measurement of cardiac impulses from many angles. The ECG provides 3-dimensional information about the conduction system of the heart, the myocardium, and other cardiac structures. Electrocardiogram (ECG) ( ECG ECG An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a graphic representation of the electrical activity of the heart plotted against time. Adhesive electrodes are affixed to the skin surface allowing measurement of cardiac impulses from many angles. The ECG provides 3-dimensional information about the conduction system of the heart, the myocardium, and other cardiac structures. Electrocardiogram (ECG)):
    • Bradycardia Bradycardia Bradyarrhythmia is a rhythm in which the heart rate is less than 60/min. Bradyarrhythmia can be physiologic, without symptoms or hemodynamic change. Pathologic bradyarrhythmia results in reduced cardiac output and hemodynamic instability causing syncope, dizziness, or dyspnea. Bradyarrhythmias
    • Ventricular arrhythmias
    • Osborn waves (J point elevation):
      • Classic ECG ECG An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a graphic representation of the electrical activity of the heart plotted against time. Adhesive electrodes are affixed to the skin surface allowing measurement of cardiac impulses from many angles. The ECG provides 3-dimensional information about the conduction system of the heart, the myocardium, and other cardiac structures. Electrocardiogram (ECG) finding in severe hypothermia
      • Deflection with a dome or hump configuration occurring at the R-ST junction
      • Often mistaken for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction Myocardial infarction MI is ischemia and death of an area of myocardial tissue due to insufficient blood flow and oxygenation, usually from thrombus formation on a ruptured atherosclerotic plaque in the epicardial arteries. Clinical presentation is most commonly with chest pain, but women and patients with diabetes may have atypical symptoms. Myocardial Infarction (STEMI)
      • No prognostic significance
      • Resolves with rewarming
Osborn waves

Osborn waves (J point elevation) associated with hypothermia

Image: “Osborn waves” by the First Department of Internal Medicine, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan. License: CC BY 2.5, edited by Lecturio.

Management

Mild hypothermia (32°C–35°C (89.6°F–95°F))

  •  Passive external rewarming:
    • Remove wet clothes.
    • Cover the patient with an insulating material (blanket).
    • Bring to a warm environment.
  • More aggressive techniques may be considered if the rise in body temperature Body Temperature The measure of the level of heat of a human or animal. Heatstroke < 0.5°/hour.

Moderate hypothermia (29°C–32°C (84.2°F–89.6°F))

  • Passive external rewarming
  • Active external rewarming:
    • Use heated blankets/pads.
    • Warm baths
    • Forced air systems
    • Radiant heat Heat Inflammation lamps
  • The aim is to warm the torso > limbs to prevent the loss of the core temperature

Severe (22°C–28°C (71.6°F–82.4°F)) and profound (< 22°C (< 71.6°F)) hypothermia

  • Passive external rewarming
  • Active external rewarming
  • Active core rewarming:
    • Usage of warmed intravenous (IV) fluids
    • Warmed humidified oxygen
    • Bladder Bladder A musculomembranous sac along the urinary tract. Urine flows from the kidneys into the bladder via the ureters, and is held there until urination. Pyelonephritis and Perinephric Abscess/gastric irrigation 
    • Peritoneal dialysis Dialysis Renal replacement therapy refers to dialysis and/or kidney transplantation. Dialysis is a procedure by which toxins and excess water are removed from the circulation. Hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis (PD) are the two types of dialysis, and their primary difference is the location of the filtration process (external to the body in hemodialysis versus inside the body for PD). Peritoneal Dialysis and Hemodialysis 
    • Closed thoracic lavage 
    • Extracorporeal blood rewarming

Failure to rewarm

  • Continue rewarming efforts.
  • Consider and address contributing factors:
    • Infection/ sepsis Sepsis Systemic inflammatory response syndrome with a proven or suspected infectious etiology. When sepsis is associated with organ dysfunction distant from the site of infection, it is called severe sepsis. When sepsis is accompanied by hypotension despite adequate fluid infusion, it is called septic shock. Sepsis and Septic Shock (empiric IV antibiotics should be started if the body temperature Body Temperature The measure of the level of heat of a human or animal. Heatstroke rises < 0.67°/hour)
    • Adrenal insufficiency Adrenal Insufficiency Conditions in which the production of adrenal corticosteroids falls below the requirement of the body. Adrenal insufficiency can be caused by defects in the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland, or the hypothalamus. Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison’s Disease
    • Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia is an emergency condition defined as a serum glucose level ≤ 70 mg/dL (≤ 3.9 mmol/L) in diabetic patients. In nondiabetic patients, there is no specific or defined limit for normal serum glucose levels, and hypoglycemia is defined mainly by its clinical features. Hypoglycemia
    • Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism

Complications of rewarming

  • Hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension (from peripheral vasodilation Vasodilation The physiological widening of blood vessels by relaxing the underlying vascular smooth muscle. Pulmonary Hypertension Drugs)
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Arrhythmias
  • Rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis is characterized by muscle necrosis and the release of toxic intracellular contents, especially myoglobin, into the circulation. Rhabdomyolysis
  • Delayed pulmonary, renal, or neurologic complications

Cardiac arrest Cardiac arrest Cardiac arrest is the sudden, complete cessation of cardiac output with hemodynamic collapse. Patients present as pulseless, unresponsive, and apneic. Rhythms associated with cardiac arrest are ventricular fibrillation/tachycardia, asystole, or pulseless electrical activity. Cardiac Arrest in hypothermic patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship

  • “You’re not dead until you are warm and dead.”
  • Efforts should be continued if practical until body temperature Body Temperature The measure of the level of heat of a human or animal. Heatstroke is 32°C–35°C (89.6°F–95°F).
  • Airway Airway ABCDE Assessment/breathing:
    • Intubate as usual for coma Coma Coma is defined as a deep state of unarousable unresponsiveness, characterized by a score of 3 points on the GCS. A comatose state can be caused by a multitude of conditions, making the precise epidemiology and prognosis of coma difficult to determine. Coma or respiratory depression.
    • Provide warmed O2 via ventilator or bag-valve-mask device.
    • Pulse oximeter may not be able to detect a waveform.
  • Circulation Circulation The movement of the blood as it is pumped through the cardiovascular system. ABCDE Assessment:
    • Some bradycardia Bradycardia Bradyarrhythmia is a rhythm in which the heart rate is less than 60/min. Bradyarrhythmia can be physiologic, without symptoms or hemodynamic change. Pathologic bradyarrhythmia results in reduced cardiac output and hemodynamic instability causing syncope, dizziness, or dyspnea. Bradyarrhythmias is physiologic in hypothermia.
    • Allow a full 60 seconds for a pulse check.
    • Handheld Doppler Doppler Ultrasonography applying the doppler effect, with frequency-shifted ultrasound reflections produced by moving targets (usually red blood cells) in the bloodstream along the ultrasound axis in direct proportion to the velocity of movement of the targets, to determine both direction and velocity of blood flow. Ultrasound (Sonography) may be useful to verify the presence of a pulse.
    • If there is cardiac activity on the monitor, consider withholding chest compressions Chest Compressions Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) even if no pulse can be felt.
    • Look for cardiac motion on an ultrasound, if available, before beginning chest compressions Chest Compressions Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
  • Defibrillation Defibrillation Ventricular Fibrillation (V-fib):
    • Proceed as usual.
    • May not work until core temperature > 30°C (86°F)

Prognosis Prognosis A prediction of the probable outcome of a disease based on a individual’s condition and the usual course of the disease as seen in similar situations. Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas

  • Factors associated with death within 24 hours:
    • Prehospital cardiac arrest Cardiac arrest Cardiac arrest is the sudden, complete cessation of cardiac output with hemodynamic collapse. Patients present as pulseless, unresponsive, and apneic. Rhythms associated with cardiac arrest are ventricular fibrillation/tachycardia, asystole, or pulseless electrical activity. Cardiac Arrest
    • Low or absent blood pressure
    • Need for endotracheal intubation Endotracheal Intubation Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome
    • Elevated BUN
  • Hypothermia with asphyxia Asphyxia A pathological condition caused by lack of oxygen, manifested in impending or actual cessation of life. Drowning carries a worse prognosis Prognosis A prediction of the probable outcome of a disease based on a individual’s condition and the usual course of the disease as seen in similar situations. Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas:
    • Drowning Drowning Drowning occurs due to respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in a liquid medium. Aspiration of water leads to hypoxemia, which affects all organ systems, resulting in respiratory insufficiency and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), cardiac arrhythmias, and neuronal damage. Drowning
    • Avalanche burial
  • Hypothermia with cardiac arrest Cardiac arrest Cardiac arrest is the sudden, complete cessation of cardiac output with hemodynamic collapse. Patients present as pulseless, unresponsive, and apneic. Rhythms associated with cardiac arrest are ventricular fibrillation/tachycardia, asystole, or pulseless electrical activity. Cardiac Arrest:
    • 50% neurologically intact survival if extracorporeal circulation Circulation The movement of the blood as it is pumped through the cardiovascular system. ABCDE Assessment is used
    • < 37% neurologically intact survival with other methods

Differential Diagnosis

  • Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism: deficiency of T3 T3 A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones and T4 T4 The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroxine is peripherally deiodinated to form triiodothyronine which exerts a broad spectrum of stimulatory effects on cell metabolism. Thyroid Hormones thyroid hormones Thyroid hormones The 2 primary thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are synthesized and secreted by the thyroid, and they are responsible for stimulating metabolism in most cells of the body. Their secretion is regulated primarily by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. Thyroid Hormones. Clinical features of hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism are primarily due to the accumulation of matrix substances and a decreased metabolic rate. Severe hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism is associated with hypothermia secondary to decreased metabolic heat production Heat Production Fever.
  • Adrenal insufficiency Adrenal Insufficiency Conditions in which the production of adrenal corticosteroids falls below the requirement of the body. Adrenal insufficiency can be caused by defects in the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland, or the hypothalamus. Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison’s Disease: inadequate production of adrenocortical hormones Hormones Hormones are messenger molecules that are synthesized in one part of the body and move through the bloodstream to exert specific regulatory effects on another part of the body. Hormones play critical roles in coordinating cellular activities throughout the body in response to the constant changes in both the internal and external environments. Hormones: Overview and Types ( glucocorticoids Glucocorticoids Glucocorticoids are a class within the corticosteroid family. Glucocorticoids are chemically and functionally similar to endogenous cortisol. There are a wide array of indications, which primarily benefit from the antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive effects of this class of drugs. Glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids Mineralocorticoids Mineralocorticoids are a drug class within the corticosteroid family and fludrocortisone is the primary medication within this class. Fludrocortisone is a fluorinated analog of cortisone. The fluorine moiety protects the drug from isoenzyme inactivation in the kidney, allowing it to exert its mineralocorticoid effect. Mineralocorticoids, and adrenal androgens Androgens Androgens are naturally occurring steroid hormones responsible for development and maintenance of the male sex characteristics, including penile, scrotal, and clitoral growth, development of sexual hair, deepening of the voice, and musculoskeletal growth. Androgens and Antiandrogens). Primary adrenal insufficiency Adrenal Insufficiency Conditions in which the production of adrenal corticosteroids falls below the requirement of the body. Adrenal insufficiency can be caused by defects in the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland, or the hypothalamus. Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison’s Disease (Addison’s disease) is caused by diseases in the gland itself.  Secondary adrenal insufficiency Secondary adrenal insufficiency Deficiency in pituitary adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion. Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison’s Disease occurs due to decreased production of ACTH either from prolonged glucocorticoid therapy or disease in the pituitary Pituitary A small, unpaired gland situated in the sella turcica. It is connected to the hypothalamus by a short stalk which is called the infundibulum. Hormones: Overview and Types/hypothalamic glands. Both scenarios put the patient at risk of developing hypothermia. 
  • Sepsis Sepsis Systemic inflammatory response syndrome with a proven or suspected infectious etiology. When sepsis is associated with organ dysfunction distant from the site of infection, it is called severe sepsis. When sepsis is accompanied by hypotension despite adequate fluid infusion, it is called septic shock. Sepsis and Septic Shock: bacteremia Bacteremia The presence of viable bacteria circulating in the blood. Fever, chills, tachycardia, and tachypnea are common acute manifestations of bacteremia. The majority of cases are seen in already hospitalized patients, most of whom have underlying diseases or procedures which render their bloodstreams susceptible to invasion. Glycopeptides associated with signs of systemic toxicity Toxicity Dosage Calculation and progression to multi-organ failure. Late sepsis Sepsis Systemic inflammatory response syndrome with a proven or suspected infectious etiology. When sepsis is associated with organ dysfunction distant from the site of infection, it is called severe sepsis. When sepsis is accompanied by hypotension despite adequate fluid infusion, it is called septic shock. Sepsis and Septic Shock can be associated with hypothermia. Vital signs (e.g., tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children) that are inconsistent with the degree of accidental hypothermia should raise the suspicion of an alternative diagnosis.

References

  1. Corneli, H. M., & Kadish, H. (2020). Hypothermia in children: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. Retrieved January 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hypothermia-in-children-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis
  2. Zafren, K., & Mechem, C.C. (2020). Accidental hypothermia in adults. Retrieved 15 January 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/accidental-hypothermia-in-adults

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