Last winter, HCMC’s Burn Center treated a record number of patients with frostbite injury. In an “average” year, the Burn Center cares for about 25 patients with frostbite requiring hospitalization. In 2014, more than 200 patients were admitted for care.
Dr. Ryan Fey
“It was one of the coldest winters in the past 30 years, so it’s no surprise that we saw an increase in frostbite injuries,” explains burn surgeon and critical care specialist Dr. Ryan Fey. “Obviously, the key is to avoid exposure to extreme cold temperatures. That means staying indoors when it’s cold, and if you have to be outdoors for any length of time, making sure you dress appropriately to stay warm – even if it’s just a run to the mailbox or from your house to your car.” Continue reading
Every Minnesotan is familiar with piling on coats, hats, mittens and other clothing to stay protected from the elements during the winter months. So far this year HCMC has treated at least 78 patients with complications from hypothermia – literally meaning “low (body) temperature.” No one plans to become hypothermic; car trouble, walking home from a party, or a slip and fall on the ice are just a few ways people inadvertently get over-exposed to the harsh cold.
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Every year, the Burn Center at HCMC admits approximately 20-30 patients for treatment of frostbite.
Burn surgeons take care of injuries from extreme temperatures — both hot and cold. Dr. Anne Lambert answers some general questions about frostbite.
What causes frostbite?
“Depending on how quickly the person gets cold, there are ice crystals forming within and around their cells, not unlike putting a piece of meat in the freezer,” explains burn surgeon Dr. Anne Lambert. “With the ice crystals forming, it decreases the blood flow and literally at some point stops the blood flow to certain points of the extremities.”
What body parts are most vulnerable to frostbite?
“Just like everything else, our body tries to preserve the heat for its important parts, like the brain and other internal organs, so during cold temperatures, the blood vessels start to get smaller, decreasing blood flow to the distant parts of the body — like noses, ears, fingers and toes. While these areas are the most likely body parts to be affected by frostbite, we’ve had people come in with their entire arm or leg frozen as well.”
Check out hcmc.org/outdoors for tips on how to avoid frostbite injuries.
View frostbite prevention public service announcement on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNf13sbrY08&feature=related
Thousands of Minnesotans are heading to the woods for the firearms deer hunting opener this weekend. While hunters watch for that elusive 18-point buck, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) wants to remind them to keep their sights on safety – and enjoy the great outdoors. Simple precautions and common sense go a long way in helping to avoid injuries.
“So many injuries occur over the deer hunting weekends,” explains HCMC Burn Center surgeon and avid deer hunter Dr. Ryan Fey. “Whether it’s a fall from a deer stand or a burn from a campfire, an injury can put you in the hospital – and put a quick end to the good memories. You’ll always remember the time you got hurt because of a preventable incident.”