Background: Induced hypothermia is widely used for comatose survivors of cardiac arrest. Other causes of hypoxic brain injury carry a poor prognosis when treated using traditional methods. At our hospital, hypothermia has also been used for the management of all comatose survivors of asphyxiation. The aim of the present study was to report the results of the management of these patients.
Methods: Hospital charts of all patients admitted unconscious after asphyxiation during a 7-year period were reviewed. This included patients after hanging, drowning, carbon monoxide intoxication and other gas intoxications. In all patients, hypothermia with a target temperature of 32–34 °C was induced with external or intravascular cooling for 24 h. The primary outcome was neurologic function at discharge.
Results: Fourteen male patients were treated with hypothermia, eight after hanging, three after drowning, two after carbon monoxide intoxication and one after methane intoxication. All were deeply comatose (Glasgow Coma Score 3–5) on arrival to hospital. Nine had been resuscitated from cardiac arrest. There were nine survivors (65%), all with good neurological recovery (Cerebral Performance Category 1–2). Four out of five non-survivors showed cerebral edema already on arrival computed tomographic (CT) scan while none of the nine survivors did.
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that an early abnormal CT scan of the brain in patients resuscitated after asphyxiation carries an adverse prognosis. The favorable outcome of the patients in the present study suggests that a randomized clinical trial on the use of induced hypothermia in patients exposed to severe asphyxia might be warranted.