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Therapeutic hypothermia fails to work with children, researchers find

Researchers analysed the benefits of therapeutic hypothermia through mortality rates, neurological outcomes and adverse effects

Therapeutic hypothermia has proven to be beneficial for adults to reduce the effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Researchers of this study found the benefits do not extend to children and that the practice can even increase the likelihood of death.

Researchers from the University of London and colleagues observed 3,100 cases of TBI in adults and 450 in children. While the required degree of hypothermia, length of use and timings are unclear, the researchers analysed its benefits through mortality rates, neurological outcomes and adverse effects.

Mortality increase

The most effective treatment for adults was cooling the brain to a temperature of 33C for 72 hours, which allows the patient to return to their normal temperature of 37C naturally. While this approach provided the best possible outcome for adults, cooling children between the ages of three months and 18 years

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Therapeutic hypothermia has proven to be beneficial for adults to reduce the effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Researchers of this study found the benefits do not extend to children and that the practice can even increase the likelihood of death.

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Researchers from the University of London and colleagues observed 3,100 cases of TBI in adults and 450 in children. While the required degree of hypothermia, length of use and timings are unclear, the researchers analysed its benefits through mortality rates, neurological outcomes and adverse effects.

Mortality increase

The most effective treatment for adults was cooling the brain to a temperature of 33°C for 72 hours, which allows the patient to return to their normal temperature of 37°C naturally. While this approach provided the best possible outcome for adults, cooling children between the ages of three months and 18 years led to a 66% increase in mortality.

The data show that adult patients have an 18% better chance of surviving and a 35% improvement in neurological outcome if they receive this treatment.

Currently, 7.7 million people in Europe and 5 million people in the US live with a TBI-related injury and the World Health Organization predicts that TBI will become a major cause of death and disability across the world.

The authors of this study hope that clinical practitioners will consider the use of therapeutic hypothermia to enable people who experience these injuries to live fuller, longer lives, but it should not be recommended to children.


Crompton EM, Lubomirova I, Cotlarciuc I et al (2016) Meta-analysis of therapeutic hypothermia for traumatic brain injury in adult and pediatric patients. Critical Care Medicine. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000002205

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