Why First Responders May Start Carrying Ice Packs
A new study suggests that cardiovascular decompensation—a life-threatening drop in blood pressure caused by serious injuries involving significant blood loss—may be treated temporarily at the scene or during transport to the hospital simply by applying a bag of ice water to the injured person’s face. Decompensation, which remains a dangerous complication even after bleeding has stopped, reduces the delivery of oxygen to the brain, heart, and other vital organs.
For the study, ten healthy volunteers were placed in a special chamber that simulates blood circulation after a person has lost one-half to one liter of blood and a tourniquet has been applied to stop the bleeding. Researchers applied bags of ice water or bags of room-temperature water to the study participants’ faces for 15 minutes while they continuously monitored cardiovascular function. They discovered that participants treated with bags of ice water experienced significant increases in blood pressure, suggesting that applying ice water can improve cardiovascular function after blood loss and prevent a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
Researchers expect to begin clinical trials soon. The hope is that this simple technique can be used by first responders or medics in the field of combat to improve survival rates after injuries involving blood loss by providing extra time for transport to a hospital or other medical facility.
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