Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Frostbite Procedure

File this one under: Good to know, hope I never need it.

I've never had frostbite though I've certainly had plenty of cases of "screaming meanies" (ask any ice climber if you don't know what that is). But as a mountaineer, frostbite is something that I need to be prepared for--quite a few of my friends have lost bits of fingers and toes.
This week, a paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology about a breakthrough treatment for frostbite that has the potential to prevent amputations. The technique involves using an IV to infuse the affected limb with a drug (Tenectaplase) through arteries upstream of the injured area so this likely isn't something that will be done in the field. The results appear to be a dramatic improvement over the standard protocols, which often resulted in small blood clots that wreak havoc on thawing tissue.
Since this research is so new, if you end up in the hospital with frostbite, it's likely that you may have to inform your doctor about the procedure. The press release gives a nice summary of the research. Here is the PowerPoint presentation if you want full details and the typical gory photos.

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