Conway Regional Medical Center’s Thermogard Therapy machine is saving lives at a faster rate for cardiac arrests and other life-threatening medical events than ever before.

The machine cools patients’ body temperatures to about 32 to 34 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit) for 24 hours after a Code Blue (cardiac arrest) or an Anaphylactic shock, which is a widespread and serious allergic reaction.

The body is cooled by a catheter placed in the femoral vein in the hip and goes up below the heart.

Four small balloons are attached to the catheter and hold the cooling fluid, so the fluid never goes into the patient’s body.

Patients are sedated and temporarily paralyzed to prevent shivering.

Once the body is cooled, the system starts slowly warming the body so organ and cerebral damage is minimized.

It takes about 30 hours to re-warm patients if they are not having any other problems.

When patients wake up, they are usually able to communicate immediately.

Before, it would take about 12 hours for patients to communicate properly.

"Over the years, we’ve had to put ice in armpits," Jana Corley, Coronary Care Unit (CCU) nurse manager, said. "It chilled the fluids, but would take several hours and sometimes burn the skin. This new system does that more accurately."

She said using this machine takes nurses out of the of patients rooms with ice packs. They also didn’t know how quickly patients would warm after removing just one ice pack. As more cardiac arrest patients come along, nurses get to learn more about the condition.

The physicians and nurses on-hand during the interview said using the machine has shown tremendous results.

"Brain swelling because of the lack of oxygen is a major problem we have experienced," Cardiologist Dr. Don Steely said. "If you have six to eight minutes without oxygen, you’ll go brain dead. With this machine, you’ll have a better chance to survive."

Steely said the mortality rate for cardiac arrest outside of the hospital is 90 percent, but inside the hospital, the mortality rate is 70 percent.

Before the machine, this process would take about six hours. Now, it takes about two hours.

Dr. William McColgan, CCU medical director and general surgeon, explained how this works.

"Hypothermia counteracts the neuroexcitation in brain cells by stabilizing calcium and glutamate release which, in turn, reduces the degree of cell death," he said. "Cooling should be initiated as soon as possible after the return of spontaneous circulation, but is successful even if delayed for four to six hours."

He explained the goal of this process.

"The goal is for the patient to emerge neurologically intact and without further complications from the cardiac arrest," McColgan said.

All of the cardiologists at Conway Regional endorse Thermogard Therapy.

(Staff Writer Andy Robertson can be reached by email at andrew.robertson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)