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Lowering body temperature improves outcomes in adults with traumatic brain injury

Lowering the body temperature of adults who experience a traumatic brain injury can significantly improve chances of survival, new study results suggest.
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Lowering the body temperature of adults who experience a traumatic brain injury can significantly improve chances of survival, new study results suggest.

To assess the success of therapeutic hypothermia where a persons body temperature is reduced to protect neurons from being killed off or damaged UK researchers examined around 3,100 cases in adults and around 450 cases in children.

They found that cooling the brain to a temperature of 33c for 72 hours, and then allowing the patient to return to their normal temperature of 37c naturally, is the most effective treatment in adults, who are significantly less likely to die or have serious cognitive impairment due to damaged neurons.

Controversial treatment

Lowering the body temperature to treat people

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Lowering the body temperature of adults who experience a traumatic brain injury can significantly improve chances of survival, new study results suggest.


 Reducing body temperature has been revealed to be an effective treatment for 
people with traumatic brain injury. Picture: Science Photo Library

To assess the success of therapeutic hypothermia – where a person’s body temperature is reduced to protect neurons from being killed off or damaged – UK researchers examined around 3,100 cases in adults and around 450 cases in children.

They found that cooling the brain to a temperature of 33c for 72 hours, and then allowing the patient to return to their normal temperature of 37c naturally, is the most effective treatment in adults, who are significantly less likely to die or have serious cognitive impairment due to damaged neurons.

Controversial treatment

‘Lowering the body temperature to treat people with traumatic brain injury is a controversial treatment, but one that our latest research has shown to reduce deaths and long-term injury,’ said lead study author Pankaj Sharma from Royal Holloway University in London.

‘Patients have an 18% better chance of surviving and a 35% improvement in neurological outcome if they are given this treatment.’

However, medically-induced hypothermia is not recommended for children, as it can be fatal. ‘In children between the ages of three months and 18 years, cooling provoked a 66% increase in mortality,’ said professor Sharma.


Crompton E 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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