Research Article

Treatment of accidental hypothermia: a prospective clinical study.

Br Med J 1980; 280 doi: (Published 26 April 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;280:1102
  1. I M Ledingham,
  2. J G Mone


    A 15-year prospective study was carried out of 44 patients with accidental hypothermia (mean age 60 years) admitted to an intensive therapy unit. The lowest core temperature recorded in each patient ranged from 20.0 to 34.3 degrees C. The precipitating factors were poisoning (by drugs, alcohol, or coal gas) in 25 cases and various illnesses in 19. Rewarming was achieved in 42 patients by applying a radiant heat cradle over the torso, and in two patients by mediastinal irrigation with warmed fluids. Twelve patients died, but only two during the period of rewarming. Thus rewarming may be consistently and safely achieved irrespective of the cause of hypothermia, and normal body temperature may be regained as rapidly as is compatible with adequate tissue perfusion and oxygenation. Surface rewarming of the torso is perhaps the simplest technique available, but internal rewarming procedures may be desirable or essential in the presence of, for example, profound hypothermia, severe hypotension, or ventricular fibrillation. Mortality was attributable to underlying factors or disease and not to hypothermia.