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Healthwise: Cooling Blankets

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

June 16, 2010

In a way, the cooling blanket is as simple as it sounds. It's placed on a patient to lower the body's temperature. Nurses alter the temperature of the cooling agent to the desired degree. Dr. Francis Ansa says the blankets are helping heart attack patients at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

"We do CPR and give them medications, and we get a circulation, meaning that we get a blood pressure and pulse back, and we cool them. What it does is it actually protects the brain," said Dr. Ansa, who works in the Intensive Care Unit.

The cooling blanket is used on an unconscious patient for about 18 hours, and doctors have found that the outcome for the neurological status of the brain is better in patients who are cooled than those who are not, possibly improving survival rates as well.

Cooling therapy was used at Martha Jefferson before the hospital had the blankets, but the labor intensive process was not as exact as the new system.

"We used ice packs. We put ice packs in the armpit area, the neck area, the groin area, these are areas of the body that have very large blood vessels," said Dr. Ansa.

Martha Jefferson is also doing outreach with EMS crews, training them to begin the cooling process in the field before the patient arrives at the hospital. Whether in transit or in a operating room, most community hospitals do not have access to the cooling blanket technology, but at Martha Jefferson, the blankets are a comfort for patients in a life or death situation.

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