Hyperthermia medical therapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Medical Therapy

Heat stroke is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization, and the local emergency services should be notified as soon as possible.

The body temperature must be lowered immediately. The victim should be moved to a cool area (indoors, or at least in the shade) and clothing removed to promote heat loss (passive cooling). Active cooling methods may be used: The person is bathed in cool water, a hyperthermia vest can be applied, or the person may be wrapped in a cool wet towel. Cold compresses to the torso, head, neck, and groin will help cool the victim. A fan may be used to aid in evaporation of the water (evaporative method). Ice and very cold water can produce hypothermia; they should be used only when there are means to monitor the victim's temperature continuously.

Immersing a victim into a bathtub of cold water (immersion method) is a recognized method of cooling. This method requires the effort of 4-5 persons and the victim should be monitored carefully during the treatment process. This should be avoided for an unconscious victim; if there is no alternative, the victim's head must be held above water.

Hydration is of paramount importance in cooling the victim. This is achieved by drinking water (Oral rehydration). Commercial isotonic drinks may be used as a substitute. Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided due to their diuretic properties. Some authorities are opposed to giving any fluids, except by emergency personnel. Intravenous hydration (via a drip) is necessary if the victim is confused, unconscious, or unable to tolerate oral fluids.

Alcohol rubs will cause further dehydration and impairment of consciousness and should be avoided. The victim's condition should be reassessed and stabilized by trained medical personnel. The victim's heart rate and breathing should be monitored, and CPR may be necessary if the victim goes into cardiac arrest.

The victim should be placed into the recovery position to ensure that the airway remains open.

Clinical Applications

Hyperthermia can be intentionally produced for medical purposes. Thermotherapy, or therapy by induced hyperthermia, may be used as a cancer treatment to kill or weaken tumor cells, with negligible effects on healthy cells.

References


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