Hypothermia in the sepsis syndrome and clinical outcome. The Methylprednisolone Severe Sepsis Study Group

Crit Care Med. 1992 Oct;20(10):1395-401. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199210000-00006.


Objective: To evaluate the consequences of clinical hypothermia associated with sepsis syndrome and septic shock.

Design: Analysis of data from a multi-institutional, randomized, placebo-controlled, prospective study with predetermined end-point analysis of development of shock, recovery from shock, hospital length of stay, and death.

Setting: Multi-institutional medical and surgical ICUs.

Patients: Patients meeting predetermined criteria for severe sepsis syndrome.

Interventions: Appropriate sepsis and shock care with 50% of patients receiving methylprednisolone and 50% receiving placebo.

Measurements and main results: The occurrence rate of hypothermia (< 35.5 degrees C) is 9% in this population. When compared with febrile patients, hypothermic patients had a higher frequency of central nervous system dysfunction (88% vs. 60%), increased serum bilirubin concentration (35% vs. 15%), prolonged prothrombin times (50% vs. 23%), shock (94% vs. 61%), failure to recover from shock (66% vs. 26%), and death (62% vs. 26%). The hypothermic patients were also more likely to be classified as having a rapidly or ultimately fatal disease upon study admission.

Conclusions: This prospective study confirms that hypothermia associated with sepsis syndrome has a significant relationship to outcome manifest by increased frequency of shock and death from shock. This finding is in sharp contrast to the protective effects of induced hypothermia in septic animals and perhaps man.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bilirubin / blood
  • Fever / epidemiology
  • Fever / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / etiology
  • Hypothermia / mortality*
  • Hypothermia / physiopathology
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prothrombin Time
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / complications*
  • Sepsis / drug therapy
  • Shock, Septic / complications*
  • Shock, Septic / diagnosis
  • Shock, Septic / drug therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Bilirubin
  • Methylprednisolone