Is prehospital use of active external warming dangerous for patients with accidental hypothermia: a systematic review
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine. 2020, 28:77. 10.1186/s13049-020-00773-2
Background: Optimal prehospital management and treatment of patients with accidental hypothermia is a matter of frequent debate, with controversies usually revolving around the subject of rewarming. The rule of thumb in primary emergency care and first aid for patients with accidental hypothermia has traditionally been to be refrain from prehospital active rewarming and to focus on preventing further heat loss. The potential danger of active external rewarming in a prehospital setting has previously been generally accepted among the emergency medicine community based on a fear of potential complications, such as “afterdrop”, “rewarming syndrome”, and “circum-rescue collapse”. This has led to a reluctancy from health care providers to provide patients with active external rewarming outside the hospital. Different theories and hypotheses exist for these physiological phenomena, but the scientific evidence is limited. The research question is whether the prehospital use of active external rewarming is dangerous for patients with accidental hypothermia. This systematic review intends to describe the acute unfavourable adverse effects of active external rewarming on patients with accidental hypothermia. Methods: A literature search of the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL], and SveMed+ was carried out, and all articles were screened for eligibility. All article formats were included. Results: Two thousand three hundred two articles were screened, and eight articles met our search criteria. Three articles were case reports or case series, one was a prospective study, two were retrospective studies, one article was a literature review, and one article was a war report from the Napoleonic Wars. Conclusions: One of the main findings in this article was the poor scientific quality and the low number of articles meeting our inclusion criteria. When conducting this review, we found no scientific evidence of acceptable quality to prove that the use of active external rewarming is dangerous for patients with accidental hypothermia in a prehospital setting. We found several articles claiming that active external rewarming is dangerous, but most of them do not cite references or provide evidence.