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Hypothermia in trauma
  1. Samuel Edwin Moffatt1
  1. 1University of Leicester Medical School, Leicester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Samuel Edwin Moffatt, Department of Medical and Social Care Education, Maurice Shock Medical Sciences Building, University of Leicester, PO Box 138, Leicester, LE1 9HN, UK;sem50{at}student.le.ac.uk

Abstract

Hypovolaemic shock that results through traumatically inflicted haemorrhage can have disastrous consequences for the victim. Initially the body can compensate for lost circulating volume, but as haemorrhage continues compensatory mechanisms fail and the patient's condition worsens significantly. Hypovolaemia results in the lethal triad, a combination of hypothermia, acidosis and coagulopathy, three factors that are interlinked and serve to worsen each other. The lethal triad is a form of vicious cycle, which unless broken will result in death. This report will focus on the role of hypothermia (a third of the lethal triad) in trauma, examining literature to assess how prehospital temperature control can impact on the trauma patient. Spontaneous hypothermia following trauma has severely deleterious consequences for the trauma victim; however, both active warming of patients and clinically induced hypothermia can produce particularly positive results and improve patient outcome. Possible coagulopathic side effects of clinically induced hypothermia may be corrected with topical haemostatic agents, with the benefits of an extended golden hour given by clinically induced hypothermia far outweighing these risks. Active warming of patients, to prevent spontaneous trauma induced hypothermia, is currently the only viable method currently available to improve patient outcome. This method is easy to implement requiring simple protocols and contributes significantly to interrupting the lethal triad. However, the future of trauma care appears to lie with clinically induced therapeutic hypothermia. This new treatment provides optimism that in the future the number of deaths resulting from catastrophic haemorrhaging may be significantly lessened.

  • Trauma
  • Hypothermia
  • Pre-Hospital
  • Military

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