The brain is extraordinarily susceptible to changes in temperature. Hyperthermia has been shown to exacerbate the biochemical cascade of secondary brain injury. Inversely, hypothermia limits the damaging effects of secondary brain injury. There has been a great deal of investigation regarding the detrimental effects of hyperthermia and the neuroprotection of hypothermia in animal studies. Within the last decade, clinical trials have begun to establish how the brain reacts to both temperature extremes. In the future, studies of hypothermia will continue in the quest of the optimal timing and degree of hypothermia. Hyperthermia will be examined in depth for its detrimental effects on an injured brain. Interventions for the prevention and treatment of hyperthermia will be explored. Nurses will implement cooling strategies to induce hypothermia, applying interventions to prevent complications, and they will also diagnose hyperthermia, deciding when and if to intervene pharmacologically and therapeutically. These advanced nursing actions will be guided by knowledge and understanding of available evidence. This article presents the pathophysiology of secondary brain injury and how it is affected by both hypothermia and hyperthermia. A review of the research leading up to clinical trials is explored, as well as a discussion of the future of temperature modulation for the brain injury patient. This information will help healthcare providers understand the effect that both hypothermia and hyperthermia have on the acutely injured brain.
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Neurological Nursing| October 01 2005
The Effect of Hypothermia and Hyperthermia on Acute Brain Injury
Laura H. Mcilvoy, PhD, RN, CCRN, CNRN
From the Department of Nursing, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany.
Reprint requests to Laura H. Mcilvoy, Assistant Professor, Indiana University Southeast, 1661 Silver Creek Drive, New Albany, IN 47150 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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AACN Adv Crit Care (2005) 16 (4): 488–500.
Laura H. Mcilvoy; The Effect of Hypothermia and Hyperthermia on Acute Brain Injury. AACN Adv Crit Care 1 October 2005; 16 (4): 488–500. doi:
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