Latest Heart Treatment Is Cool Answer to Recovery

ELIZABETH–During a recent visit from Florida to see relatives and friends in Roselle Park, Alfred Colucci experienced a cardiac arrest that made him an excellent candidate to receive the latest treatment using therapeutic hypothermia at Trinitas Regional Medical Center. His remarkable recovery is attributed to the protocol that involved cooling his body temperature to 91 degrees.

Nicknamed “Code Frosty,” the protocol involves staff in key areas, including the Mobile Intensive Care Unit, the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Respiratory Therapy, Pharmacy, Anesthesiology, and the Cardiac Catheterization Lab.  For patients such as Colucci, therapeutic hypothermia relies on the interaction of staff members in these departments who work rapidly to cool the patient in order to preserve brain function in the first minutes following a cardiac arrest.


“Therapeutic hypothermia, which involves bringing a patient’s body temperature down to 91 degrees, is recommended for patients whose hearts have stopped, been restarted through CPR, and who remain unconscious,” explains Trinitas Advance Practice Nurse Debbie Durand.

“Therapeutic hypothermia helps to prevent damage to the brain which is dependent on a steady supply of oxygen from the heart.  Since many patients do not even survive the original cardiac arrest, we want to give those that do every chance to maintain good brain function. If the supply of oxygen to the brain is interrupted, various processes can cause damage to brain cells that may result in an inability to communicate or interact with others. By chilling the whole body, we can slow brain damage or even prevent it from happening,” she continues.

Therapeutic hypothermia begins in the field where Trinitas paramedics are equipped with icepacks and cooled IV solution.  En route to the Emergency Department, work begins on the patient so that valuable time is not wasted.  The process then continues in the Emergency Department where the patient is wrapped in a specialized vest and leg coverings.

The care of the patient continues while he or she is under sedation.  For the next 24 hours, the patient is kept cool and cared for in the Intensive Care Unit. During this time, the patient’s normal body functions are monitored and ultimately, the patient’s body temperature is gradually warmed and returned to normal level.

At Trinitas, this new equipment is in use thanks to a grant received from the Gertrude L. Hirsch Charitable Trust.

The introduction of therapeutic hypothermia as a treatment protocol in such cases has resulted in positive outcomes and remarkable recoveries such as that of Colucci, whose wife Mary described the entire Trinitas “Code Frosty” team as “angels from heaven.”

Grateful cardiac patient Alfred Colucci (seated) and his wife Mary returned to Trinitas recently to convey their thanks and appreciation to some of those involved in the treatment of his recent cardiac arrest.  Alfred’s remarkable recovery was attributed to treatment he received as part of Trinitas’ new therapeutic hypothermia protocol that involved cooling his body temperature to 91 degrees to preserve brain function. (Photo courtesy of Trinitas)

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