Every Minnesotan is familiar with piling on coats, hats, mittens and other clothing to stay protected from the elements during the winter months. Hypothermia — literally meaning “low (body) temperature” — occurs when too much heat escapes the core of the body and cannot be replaced quickly enough. It can affect someone’s mental and physical abilities and eventually be fatal if not treated. Hypothermia sets in very slowly, so those affected often do not realize they need help or medical attention.
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.
In an “average” year, HCMC’s Burn Center cares for about 25 patients with frostbite requiring hospitalization. In 2014, more than 200 patients were admitted for care.
“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 “Nobody plans to get frostbite”→
Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) recently initiated an Antibiotic Stewardship Program (ASP) as a result of two global phenomena: 1) the emergence of multi-drug resistant organisms and 2) a failure to develop new anti-infective agents.
Outsmarting the bugs Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a microbe to outsmart or evade the current arsenal of antibiotic drugs available. There are other organisms such as viruses and fungi that cause illness, but antibiotics aren’t effective against them.
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.”