Discoveries Magazine


Brain Freeze

Brain cooling, or hypothermia, is known to decrease brain swelling after an acute stroke. It can also save lives and prevent neurological damage after cardiac arrest and after oxygen deprivation in newborns. Now, the largest clinical trial of its kind is looking into whether hypothermia can safely be used in elderly stroke patients.

“We know hypothermia works, but is it safe when you consider age and other conditions such as diabetes or hypertension?” asks Patrick D. Lyden, MDPatrick D. Lyden, MD is a highly respected neurologist who has conducted extensive research into cerebrovascular disease and potential treatments for stroke. He is Chair of the Department of Neurology and holds the Carmen and Louis Warschaw Chair in Neurology., the chairman of the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai and the study’s overall principal investigator. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston are also participating.

The study employs an advanced temperature modulation system that provides quick and controlled cooling using a metallic cooling catheter inserted into the body’s largest vein, the inferior vena cava.

Study participants are covered with warming blankets to trick the body into feeling warm, which together with a mild sedative helps suppress shivering. Body temperature is cooled to 91 degrees Fahrenheit and maintained at that level for 24 hours. Participants are then gradually rewarmed to normal body temperature over the following 12 hours.

In a previous study byDr. Lyden and his colleagues, brain cooling was shown to be safe when used together with clot busters that open up blocked arteries during a stroke. The next study will determine whether that combination is effective.

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