[Severe accidental hypothermia in an elderly woman].

Harefuah 2001 Nov;140(11):1014-7, 1119

Department of Medicine B, Edith Wolfson Medical Center, Holon.

Profound hypothermia (core temperature of less than 28 degrees C) is a life threatening state and a medical emergency associated with a high mortality rate. The prognosis depends on underlying diseases, advanced or very early age, the duration prior to treatment, the degree of hemodynamic deterioration, and especially, the methods of treatment, including active external or internal rewarming. This is a case study of an 80-year-old female patient with severe accidental hypothermia (core temperature 27 degrees C). She was found in her home lying immobile on the cold floor after a fall. The patient was in a profound coma with cardiocirculatory collapse, and the medical staff treating her was inclined to pronounce her deceased. On her arrival at the hospital, she was resuscitated, put on a respirator and actively warmed. Very severe metabolic disorders were found, including a marked metabolic acidosis composed of diabetic ketoacidosis (she had suffered from insulin treated type 2 diabetes mellitus) and lactic acidosis with a very high anion gap (42) and a hyperosmotic state (blood glucose 1202 mg/dl). There were pathognomonic electrocardiographic abnormalities, J-wave of Osborn and prolonged repolarization. Slow atrial fibrillation with a ventricular response of 30 bpm followed by a nodal rhythm of 12 bpm and reversible cardiac arrest were recorded. The pulse and blood pressure were unobtainable. Despite the successful resuscitation and hemodynamic and cognitive improvement, rhabdomyolysis (CKP 6580 u/L), renal failure and hepatic damage developed. She was extubated and treated with intravenous fluids containing dopamine, bicarbonate, insulin and antibiotics. Her medical condition gradually improved, and she was discharged clear minded, functioning very well and independent. Renal and liver tests returned eventually to normal limits. Progressive bradycardia, hypotension and death due to ventricular fibrillation or asystole commonly occur during severe hypothermia. Respiratory and metabolic, sometimes lactic, acidosis, lethargy and coma, hypercoagulopathy, hyperosmolar state, acute pancreatitis and renal and hepatic failure are frequent complications of hypothermia. Underlying predisposing causes of hypothermia are diabetic ketoacidosis, cerebrovascular disease, mental retardation, hypothyroidism, pituitary and adrenal insufficiency, malnutrition, acute alcoholism, liver damage, hypoglycemia, sepsis, hypothalamic dysfunction, sepsis and polypharmacy, and especially, the use of sedative and narcotic drugs. Our case demonstrates once again that CPR once begun should continue until the successful rewarming because "no one is dead until warm and dead".

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November 2001
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