Cold temperature helps stroke patients

Researchers have found that subjecting a patient suffering from a stroke, to cold temperatures is not dangerous. In fact, it may help to minimise tissue damage in the brain.

The findings of the study conducted by researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, suggest that exposing patients who have suffered a brain stroke to low temperatures (89.6 degree Fahrenheit) and then maintaining the same temperature for some time does not cause any harm to the patients. In fact, according to the lead researcher, in patients who have suffered a moderate to severe stroke, this technique may significantly improve the outcome.

The study monitored 10 cooled and non-cooled patients six hours after the stroke. Hypothermia was induced by covering the patients with cooling blankets and ice water. Sedatives and breathing tubes were inserted to prevent shivering. The body temperature was brought down to 32 degree Celsius and maintained for 12-72 hours. After that, salt water was administered intravenously, which had a cooling effect inside the body. The patient’s body was covered with blankets to prevent bodily symptoms of hypothermia. The brain was thus fooled into experiencing the symptoms of hypothermia.

The hypothermic patients had lower rates of complications and chances of haemorrhages and death than their non-cooled peers. This was because by cooling the temperature control centre of the brain, there were less free oxygen molecules that could damage brain tissue. Hypothermia also prevented further tissue damage by not allowing excessive oxygen to be present when blood flow was restored to the brain. This cooling, according to the researchers could be done within 40 minutes of the stroke.

Ischemic strokes occur when the arteries providing blood to the brain become clotted with blood thus disrupting blood flow. The symptoms of a stroke may be loss of consciousness, sudden numbness in the body, dizziness, loss of balance, vomiting etc. If not given medical attention immediately, permanent brain damage can occur. However, the study needs further verification for widespread acceptance.

Stroke 2001, 32:1847