Research Article

Cardiac arrhythmias during rewarming of patients with accidental hypothermia.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 289 doi: (Published 06 October 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;289:874
  1. A C Rankin,
  2. A P Rae


    Accidental hypothermia has a high mortality and is associated with cardiac arrhythmias. To determine the incidence of arrhythmias and their importance 22 patients with accidental hypothermia (core temperature less than 35 degrees C) were studied by 12 lead electrocardiography and continuous recording of cardiac rhythm. Although 14 of the patients died (64%), only six died while hypothermic. Prolongation of the Q-T interval and the presence of J waves were related to the severity of the hypothermia. Supraventricular arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, were common (nine cases) and benign. Ventricular extrasystoles were also common (10 cases), but ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation did not occur during rewarming. In eight patients who died while being monitored the terminal rhythm was asystole. There was no correlation between the severity of hypothermia or the rate of rewarming and the clinical outcome. In the absence of malignant arrhythmias there is no indication for using prophylactic antiarrhythmic treatment in patients with accidental hypothermia. The presence or absence of severe underlying disease is the main determinant of prognosis.