Background: Central venous infusion of cold fluid may be a useful method of inducing therapeutic hypothermia. The aim of this study was to quantify systemic heat balance and regional distribution of body heat during and after central infusion of cold fluid.
Methods: The authors studied nine volunteers, each on two separate days. Anesthesia was maintained with use of isoflurane, and on each day 40 ml/kg saline was infused centrally over 30 min. On one day, the fluid was 20 degrees C and on the other it was 4 degrees C. By use of a tympanic membrane probe core (trunk and head) temperature and heat content were evaluated. Peripheral compartment (arm and leg) temperature and heat content were estimated with use of fourth-order regressions and integration over volume from 18 intramuscular thermocouples, nine skin temperatures, and "deep" hand and foot temperature. Oxygen consumption and cutaneous heat flux estimated systemic heat balance.
Results: After 30-min infusion of 4 degrees C or 20 degrees C fluid, core temperature decreased 2.5 +/- 0.4 degrees C and 1.4 +/- 0.2 degrees C, respectively. This reduction in core temperature was 0.8 degrees C and 0.4 degrees C more than would be expected if the change in body heat content were distributed in proportion to body mass. Reduced core temperature resulted from three factors: (1) 10-20% because cutaneous heat loss exceeded metabolic heat production; (2) 50-55% from the systemic effects of the cold fluid per se; and (3) approximately 30% because the reduction in core heat content remained partially constrained to core tissues. The postinfusion period was associated with a rapid and spontaneous recovery of core temperature. This increase in core temperature was not associated with a peripheral-to-core redistribution of body heat because core temperature remained warmer than peripheral tissues even at the end of the infusion. Instead, it resulted from constraint of metabolic heat to the core thermal compartment.
Conclusions: Central venous infusion of cold fluid decreases core temperature more than would be expected were the reduction in body heat content proportionately distributed. It thus appears to be an effective method of rapidly inducing therapeutic hypothermia. When the infusion is complete, there is a spontaneous partial recovery in core temperature that facilitates rewarming to normothermia.