A new research has suggested that rapidly cooling a person in cardiac arrest may improve his or her chance of survival without brain damage.
"We now have a method that is safe and can be started within minutes of cardiac arrest to minimize damage during this very critical period," said Maaret Castren, M.D., lead author of the study and professor of emergency medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
For years, people hospitalized after cardiac arrest have been cooled to reduce injury to the brain and other tissues that occurs when the blood supply returns after being temporarily halted.
In the new study, Castren and colleagues at 14 other centers across Europe used a new tool, RhinoChill, that cools the brain during ongoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
RhinoChill is a non-invasive device that introduces coolant through nasal prongs.
The system is battery-powered and requires no refrigeration, making it suitable for emergency medical technicians in the field to use while a person is receiving CPR.
Researchers randomized 200 adults going into witnessed cardiac arrest to receive either standard resuscitation or resuscitation with cooling started as soon as possible during the arrest, with ongoing CPR.
All patients who survived to hospitalization were further cooled according to standard criteria.
Eighteen patients were excluded from the analysis because a 'do-not-resuscitate' order was found or there was a non-cardiac reason for their cardiac arrest.
In the 182 patients reported, 83 (average age 66 years, 71 percent male) were randomized to receive nasal cooling (although two were not cooled because of user or device problems) and 99 (average age 64.8, 78 percent male) received standard care.
"Our results show that the earlier you can do the cooling, the better," Castren said.
The research has been presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2009.