In the case of many traumatic accidents and injuries, the damage is so severe that conventional methods of healthcare do little to help the victim. Additionally, the nature of a victim’s trauma can cause further damage to the body, often resulting in secondary injuries and trauma to the brain. Newer treatments, like induced hypothermia, may help trauma patients’ bodies cope with the severity of their injuries and reduce the rate of mortality for these patients.
What is considered a Trauma Patient?
Trauma patients are accident victims who have experienced an injury that has severely damaged their bodies, such as a head injury or damage to an organ. This can also include patients who have experienced strokes, coronary events, and similar conditions. Traumatic injuries typically have lasting effects on the brain and body after the injury, ranging from physical issues, such as paralysis to mental struggles, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These ongoing symptoms in trauma patients impact a victim well after the initial event, not only mentally and physically, but also emotionally.
How do you Stabilize a Patient?
Patients who experience traumatic injuries need immediate treatment, but in some cases, before that treatment can occur, their body needs to reach a stable and responsive state to avoid causing further injury and for the treatment to be effective. This process is called stabilization and is usually performed by the first responding medical staff. Stabilization can range from providing comfort to starting medical procedures. Usually, trauma patients are checked for head or neck injuries and immobilized, bleeding in patients is controlled, sick patients are kept warm and hydrated, and arrangements are made for further transport and treatment at a medical facility. Although stabilizing does generally include using medical procedures, the intent is to prevent the patient from slipping into worse conditions until they can be treated properly.
How do you Treat a Trauma Patient?
The first and most important step to treating trauma patients is to first address the physical nature of the injury. The focus of treatment for the injured patient is to reduce the overall impact of the injury on their body. Trauma patients need to be stabilized before addressing the extent of their trauma, in order to prevent further damage before treatment and therapy. Therapy is another big factor of treatment, as patients often require readjusting to their daily lives. Eventually, patients will have recovered enough from the initial injury to progress to physical or behavioral therapy, where the patient will learn to work around their injury to retain as much of their previous quality of life as possible.
What is Hypothermia Treatment?
Hypothermia treatment, also known as induced hypothermia, is a treatment used by professional medical practitioners to treat cases of extreme trauma, usually those who have suffered cardiac arrest or another heart condition. The patient is prepared for surgery, then rapidly cooled to just above 60 degrees, stopping body function and leaving them in an almost lifeless state. This allows doctors to perform operations on patients whose bodies are still undergoing a traumatic event while simultaneously reducing the risk of additional injury to the patient, such as cardiac events or brain damage. When the treatment has been performed, the doctor gradually re-warms the patient’s body to its previous temperature in a highly controlled process, resuming normal body function.
Why is Induced Hypothermia used for Cardiac Arrest and Trauma Patients?
When a patient experiences cardiac arrest and or has just sustained a traumatic injury, they are in a race against the clock to receive lifesaving treatment. Consequently, if a medical professional is unavailable to deliver these treatments, a patient may not be able to make a full recovery. Induced hypothermia can be extremely helpful in these cases, as it gives doctors extra time to perform much-needed treatments. Cardiac arrest and trauma patients often arrive at the hospital with limited brain function due to their injury, and further brain damage is prevented through induced hypothermia.
How is Therapeutic Hypothermia Induced?
There are two ways of inducing hypothermia in patients. The first is through a method known as “surface cooling,” in which the patient’s body is covered with a number of cooling agents, such as ice packs, water mattresses, cooling jackets, cooling helmets, and air conditioning. Although successful when done properly, this method tends to lower the body’s temperature at a slower rate than other methods, thus making it less reliable. The second method is known as “endovascular cooling.” Utilizing catheters fitted with a cooling liquid and attached to a powered unit, doctors are much more rapidly able to bring patient’s body temperatures down.
Thanks to induced hypothermia, more patients who have experienced traumatic injuries and cardiac events have been able to recover.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.