New Therapy That Dramatically Lowers the Body Temperature Leads to a Dramatic Recovery

May 11, 2010

Around 10 p.m. on January 3 of this year, Leo Klein’s heart stopped beating. With each minute that passed, his brain and other vital organs were being starved of oxygen. And, although EMS personnel used defibrillation to restore a heartbeat, by the time Leo reached the Emergency Center at Floyd Memorial, he was unconscious from his cardiac arrest. Steven Pahner, M.D., a specialist in emergency medicine, remembers the night clearly. “Leo was comatose when he arrived. At his age, after experiencing cardiac arrest and the effects of anoxia, or lack of oxygen, there was very little likelihood that he would ever awaken. However, his pupils were not fixed and dilated, which indicated there was some brain function left. We discussed a new treatment option with the family and the decision was made to proceed. This was the first time we initiated the hypothermia protocol that we’d developed.”

“Before therapeutic hypothermia became an option, when a patient in Leo’s condition came in, it was very unlikely that he or she would ever wake up. But now, we have a treatment that gives them a chance to get their life back. It was remarkable that the first person we took through the entire protocol experienced such a dramatic recovery.”

Steven R. Pahner, M.D.
Board Certified Emergency
Medicine Specialist
Floyd Memorial Emergency Center

A Chilling New Therapy

Floyd Memorial recently developed a complete protocol for a new approach to treating patients who’ve experienced cardiac arrest and lost consciousness. It’s called therapeutic hypothermia, which involves the lowering of a patient’s body temperature. As Dr. Pahner explained, “The goal of the therapy is to slow down brain function and metabolism and help reverse some of the harmful effects of anoxia. Statistics suggest one in six people may benefit. That’s actually quite a significant figure, especially when you consider that the alternative frequently is death or severe brain injury and a persistent, vegetative state.”

In order to bring Leo’s temperature down to between 89.6 and 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit, he was given an infusion of cold saline. Ice packs and a cooling blanket were applied. After 24 hours, Leo’s body temperature was allowed to rise back to normal.

A Truly Dramatic Recovery

“Leo began to wake up,” said Dr. Pahner. “At first, he was confused. But soon, things started to clear. We were witnessing a remarkable outcome. It was thrilling that the first person we took through the entire therapeutic hypothermia protocol had such a miraculous recovery. After seeing Leo when he came into the ER, I never would have predicted that he would be able to walk out. Yet, just a few weeks later, I visited him in cardiac rehab. There he was, on a treadmill. I was seeing a totally different man.”

“The new therapy gave Leo the chance to recover without any obvious brain injury and no damage of any consequence to his heart. I hear about him often from his daughter, Jennifer, who works in the cardiac cath lab. And I see him in my office for follow-up. He looks great. It warms my heart to see him doing so well.”

Kevin Hollis, M.D., FACC
Board Certified Interventional
Cardiologist
Cardiovascular Associates of Southern Indiana

The reason for Leo’s cardiac arrest is unclear. As Leo’s cardiologist, Kevin Hollis, M.D., explained, “Leo had bypass surgery in 2008. But we checked his grafts and they were clear. Because we couldn’t determine a definitive cause that we could correct, we implanted a defibrillator to treat any recurrence of rhythm problems.” He added, “Leo is doing extremely well. It’s very gratifying for all of us.”

“I just can’t get over what they did for me. Dr. Pahner is a great doctor. I wouldn’t be here without him and the new treatment at Floyd Memorial. I’m doing cardiac rehab now on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and I feel wonderful. My wife and I have been married for 54 years. We are so appreciative of the whole hospital, from the front door to the back, for giving us more time together.”

Leo Klein, 75 – Therapeutic Hypothermia Patient

The Floyd Memorial Cardiac Intervention Response Team: Ready around the Clock

The Heart and Vascular Center at Floyd Memorial is home to Southern Indiana’s only 24/7 cardiac intervention response team. The team responds to emergent heart attack cases by immediately moving the patient from the Emergency Center to the Cardiac Cath Lab for intervention. It’s a tactic that can stop a heart attack in progress, or prevent one from occurring in the first place.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Floyd Memorial Emergency Center is the only Southern Indiana hospital that currently offers therapeutic hypothermia treatment.