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.”