Therapeutic Hypothermia after Cardiac Arrest: What, Why, Who, and How

Michelle E. Deckard, MSN, CNS, CCRN-CMC, and Patricia R. Ebright, DNS, CNS, RN



Cardiac arrest outside the hospital kills roughly 250,000 Americans each year. Worldwide, the average survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is just 6%. And those who survive are at risk for neurologic injury. Historically, only about 20% of cardiac arrest survivors who remained comatose have awakened with a good neurologic outcome. Therapeutic hypothermia holds out the promise of improving these sobering statistics. This article reviews the physiologic changes that occur during and after cardiac arrest, focusing on how such changes cause neurologic deficits. It identifies the mechanisms, and adverse effects of therapeutic hypothermia and describes how to manage and prevent adverse effects.

Purpose/Goal: To enhance nurses’ understanding of therapeutic hypothermia.


1. Identify the effects of therapeutic hypothermia on the patient in cardiac arrest.
2. Describe the phases of therapeutic hypothermia.
3. Discuss nursing care of patients undergoing therapeutic hypothermia.


Michelle E. Deckard is a clinical nurse specialist at Indiana University Health/Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Patricia R. Ebright is an associate professor in the Department of Adult Health at Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis. Deckard has been a Webcast presenter for Medivance, Inc. This article was peer-reviewed for bias and none was found.

Ebright and the planners of this CNE activity have disclosed no relevant financial relationships with any commercial companies pertaining to this activity.

Contact Hours: 1.6

Expiration Date: 9/30/2014


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Non-Member Price: $20.00

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