Brain temperature: heat production, elimination and clinical relevance

Paediatr Anaesth. 2011 Apr;21(4):347-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9592.2011.03542.x.


Neurological insults are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, both in adults and especially in children. Among possible therapeutic strategies to limit clinical cerebral damage and improve outcomes, hypothermia remains a promising and beneficial approach. However, its advantages are still debated after decades of use. Studies in adults have generated conflicting results, whereas in children recent data even suggest that hypothermia may be detrimental. Is it because brain temperature physiology is not well understood and/or not applied properly, that hypothermia fails to convince clinicians of its potential benefits? Or is it because hypothermia is not, as believed, the optimal strategy to improve outcome in patients affected with an acute neurological insult? This review article should help to explain the fundamental physiological principles of brain heat production, distribution and elimination under normal conditions and discuss why hypothermia cannot yet be recommended routinely in the management of children affected with various neurological insults.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Heat Stroke / complications
  • Heat Stroke / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced
  • Necrosis
  • Rewarming
  • Species Specificity
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*