Head injury patients do not benefit from a therapy that involves cooling their bodies to reduce brain swelling, research has found. Lowering body temperature — a therapy known as induced hypothermia — did not improve patients’ chances of recovery, the study showed. Doctors say the therapy may increase patients’ risk of death and disability and should not be used to treat traumatic brain injuries. Cooling the brain helps to reduce the build-up of pressure inside the head, which is strongly linked to long-term disability and death following head injury. The treatment is widely used in some intensive care units in Europe and North America, but there have been few clinical trials to assess the effects on patients’ long-term recovery. The major international study — led by the University of Edinburgh — tracked the outcomes of almost 400 cases of traumatic brain injuries from 18 different countries. Around half of the patients were treated with standard procedures. The other half were treated with induced hypothermia to try to protect the brain from further damage caused by swelling. The team found that induced hypothermia was successful at reducing the build-up of pressure in the skull after head injury. Six months later, however, patients who had received the therapy were more likely to fare worse than those treated with standard care.
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