Every year approximately 500,000 people die in the U.S. of sudden cardiac arrest. Western Baptist Hospital is using a cooling treatment, recommended by the American Heart Association, to help reduce that number.
A heart attack may cause ventricular fibrillation – uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle – which prevents the circulation of oxygen to key organs, including the heart and brain. Death or brain damage can result.
Inducing mild hypothermia, which has few risks, can protect the brain and other organs. Cooling the body gives the brain a break while other organs compete for oxygen in a crisis, such as cardiac arrest, severe trauma or stroke.
The American Heart Association issued recommendations and guidelines for inducing mild hypothermia in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest in 2005. Since then, about a third of American hospitals, including Western Baptist, have adopted the treatment.
Locally, Mercy Regional EMS personnel induce hypothermia in ambulances before patients get to the hospital. Irv Smith, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Western Baptist and the EMS medical director, advocates hypothermia because of its benefit.
Once the patient arrives at the hospital, the cooling is maintained under mild sedation to about 91 degrees for 12 to 24 hours before the patient is rewarmed. Internal or external methods, such as cooling blankets and I.V. infusion of cold saline, can be used.
Western Baptist cardiologist Ralph Millsaps, M.D., said the result is better survival rates and neurological outcomes exhibited in two studies cited by the American Heart Association.
Free stroke, cardiovascular awareness seminars
Western Baptist is sponsoring two free educational lunches in May. The quarterly Brunch Bunch will be from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, May 11, in the Baptist Heart Center auditorium. I will speak on cardiovascular care, while neurologist Jacqueline Carter, M.D., will speak on stroke prevention and care. Phone (270) 575-2891 to register.
Also, Dr. Carter will speak about stroke at a luncheon from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 20, in the Heart Center auditorium. Free carotid assessment screenings will be offered. Phone (270) 575-2895 for reservations.
Chest Pain and Stroke Hotline
For help identifying signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, phone our award-winning Chest Pain and Stroke Hotline at 1-800-575-1911 to speak with a registered nurse at Western Baptist.
Send your questions!
Do you have a cardiac question tugging at your heart? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to HeartBeat, 2501 Kentucky Ave., Paducah, KY 42003. If we use it in a future HeartBeat column, you will receive a Western Baptist Hospital door prize.