​Sudden cardiac arrest is obviously one of the most traumatic medical events that could ever happen to someone. And, restarting the heart and getting blood circulating quickly again is imperative to a good outcome. However, blood circulation resuming after an arrest can pose a new set of challenges, especially in relation to brain function. This is why WakeMed Health & Hospitals and Wake County EMS have teamed up to use a breakthrough treatment for patients who have suffered sudden cardiac arrest. It’s called induced hypothermia.

Induced hypothermia is a controlled cooling of the body. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studied the treatment for more than 15 years, and WakeMed analyzed it thoroughly before putting it into widespread practice in October 2006.  The results for patients: a three-fold increase in the number of patients who had their neurological system intact after suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

How the Process Works

Medical personnel can begin the induced hypothermia process when a patient’s heart is restarted with an automated external defibrillator, but he or she remains unconscious.
Wake County EMS staff often start the treatment using chilled saline injected intravenously into the patient while en route to the hospital. Within 20 minutes of arrival at WakeMed’s  Emergency Department, a catheter is inserted into the leg. Blood flows over that catheter, which is attached to a machine that completely controls the patient’s temperature by circulating more chilled saline through the catheter.
The patient’s body temperature is lowered to 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit and remains there for 24 hours. It’s slowly warmed during an eight hour sequence while the patient remains sedated and comfortable.
WakeMed’s induced hypothermia patients have ranged in age from 18 months to 96 years old.

Learn more about Induced Hypothermia