View Full Version : Recovery after critical hypothermia

09-30-2018, 09:38 PM
Hey guys - question for the medics out there.

One of my characters ends up suffering from severe hypothermia - she's not conscious, her body's gone stiff, very little evidence of a pulse (though she hasn't gone into cardiac arrest). She needs full-on rewarming treatment in the ER, warmed saline IV, possibly dialysis/bypass to warm her blood.

What I'd like help with is the recovery - I can't find anything about how long it would take her to fully recover, how long she'd be in hospital for, and how she'd actually feel while she recovers. Anyone got any ideas or information?

(Bit of background - the character's 15 and generally healthy, no underlying medical conditions. She's dry when she gets hypothermia, so we're not dealing with cold water immersion here.)

Thanks in advance!

10-01-2018, 01:17 AM
It depends on how long the brain was without enough oxygen but generally once you're warmed up you might wake up right away or a couple of days later at the most.

I had a teenage patient with a cold water drowning that was in a deep coma for three days then woke up fairly suddenly and made a complete recovery.

10-01-2018, 04:10 PM
What do you need for your story? There's a lot of leeway here, from early and compete recovery to permanent brain damages and incapacitation. A lot depends on what the patient's core temperature has reached. If they're still above 90 F, they likely won't even get admitted to the hospital, just given warn fluids until they're ready to go home.

Since your patient is unconscious, she's likely reached a core temperature close to or below 80 F. Likely be treated by warming of blood, possibly airways or even a warm enema. Again, recovery is variable.


10-01-2018, 04:47 PM
Ideally I'd like her to be in hospital for a few days - maybe up to a week? I don't know if that's realistic for someone who's core temp has got below 80F though.

She'd need to make a more or less full recovery, but some temporary damage can work if that makes it more accurate. She's going to have a long emotional/mental recovery anyway because she's been through a traumatic experience leading up to the hypothermia, but I mostly need to know how long she'd likely be unconscious for, when she'd be up and about, when she'd be discharged, etc. I know there's a lot of leeway but I'm not sure what's likely and what's rare/extreme.


10-01-2018, 08:13 PM
Not to get too creepy weird here,

But the majority of all we know about hypothermia and the human endurance to cold immersion comes from experimentation in NAZI camps. Since WW2, all we have to go on is whats gathered in the field from accidents and unfortunate events, all of which really had no study in progress during the happenings. It's terrible and disgusting they would do it but here is a wiki link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_human_experimentation#Freezing_experiments) to some detail of their freezing expirements. In 1942, SS doctor Sigmund Rascher published, "Medical Problems Arising from Sea and Winter" detailing these experiments at the Dachu camp.

frightening what can be learned and done with the abandonment of morality.

10-01-2018, 08:29 PM
I assure you Rob, the medical community has done a wealth of research on hypothermia. Go to PubMed and type hypothermia into the search option. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=hypothermia) The return is over 43,000 research papers that include hypothermia.

Alan Aspie
10-27-2018, 12:15 PM
One of my characters ends up suffering from severe hypothermia - she's not conscious, her body's gone stiff, very little evidence of a pulse (though she hasn't gone into cardiac arrest). She needs...

Just please, please don't start with warming her from outside.

You need to warm her slowly and from inside so that her body makes the warmth. You can use any good isolation outside her but not warming. You must protect her from outside warming.

If you put her in a warm place, the very cold blood near her skin starts to move. When it reaches her heart, she probably dies.