Objective: We investigated patients who died in our institution during the August 2003 heat wave, to determine whether some in hospital patients actually died of heat stroke.
Methods: Records of all patients who died in our tertiary care hospital between 6-15 August 2003 were analyzed retrospectively. Heat stroke was considered the cause of death when the following criteria were met: body temperature higher than 40.5 degrees C, except if there was documented evidence of cooling before the first temperature measurement, central nervous system abnormalities, and a reliable history of exposure to high temperatures in a hospital ward. The number of patients who died in the hospital during the heat wave was compared with data from the previous year.
Results: Seventeen patients died from hospital-acquired heat stroke (19% of all hospital deaths). This condition accounted for a 25% increase in hospital mortality over the same period during 2002.
Comment: Hospital-acquired heat stroke appears to be a nosocomial disease that was responsible for an overall increase in hospital mortality during the 2003 heat wave.