Dr. Jeffrey Fried, who specializes in Pulmonary and Critical Care at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, was then contacted by the cardiac team. He deter mined that Bill could benefit from therapeutic hypothermia. This involves cooling the body below its normal temperature to help lessen or prevent neurological damage caused by oxygen loss to the brain after cardiac arrest.
“The benefits of cooling in this situation have been reported in medical literature, but relatively few hospitals have developed protocols or procedures to treat patients using therapeutic hypothermia,” Dr. Fried explained.
At the time, Cottage had just acquired a new advanced intravascular cooling system called the CoolGard. The state-of-the-art machine cools patients with the use of a heat exchange catheter to induce a mild state of hypothermia “from the inside out,” as opposed to ice packs or gel pads applied to the outside of the body.
“This device permits a more rapid and controlled cooling of the body than the external cooling methods. Once the body reaches the goal temperature of 91 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature can be easily maintained within 0.1 degree of the desired temperature using the device,” Dr. Fried said. “This would be very difficult to achieve with external methods.”
Dr. Watson and Dr. Fried inserted a catheter into Bill’s vein and then guided it to a place just below his heart. Next, the catheter was connected to the CoolGard machine, which sends ice-cold saline to the balloons. Bill’s blood was cooled as it passed the balloons, leading to an overall reduction of his body temperature. No fluid was infused into his bloodstream, and no blood left his body.
Therapeutic hypothermia typically requires 12 to 24 hours of cooling. In Bill’s case, his body temperature was lowered to 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 hours, and then it was slowly warmed back to normal. During the cooling and warming process, he was under anesthesia.
Bill recovered very quickly. He spent just two nights in the Intensive Care Unit and then five more days recovering in the hospital. “Bill’s rapid recovery was remark able in several ways. First, he beat the odds and survived,” Dr. Fried said. “Just as important, he is completely normal neurologically, with no clinical evidence of brain dam age. I believe that the intravascular cooling played a major role in protecting his brain and other organs from the damage usually caused by cardiac arrest.”
A year later, Bill’s health is better than ever, and he regularly jogs at Shoreline Park. He does not remember anything from the day he collapsed, and he rarely thinks about his heart attack, he said.
“I feel really good,” Bill added. “I’m trying to get back into shape. My goal is to do a triathalon at the end of the summer.”
To learn more about Cottage's specialized stroke services, or Cottage Neuroscience Institute, please contact Gary Milgram, Service Line Director, at (805) 682-7111.