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Patient Cooling

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Megan Brashear, CVT, VTS (ECC), discusses how to cool a patient with a very high body temperature. Instead of ice packs (which will cause vasoconstriction and trap hot blood in the patient’s core), cool water and a fan are used. 

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Megan Brashear's picture
Megan Brashear


Enrolled: 07/2011

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Janine Fales's picture

Hi, Megan! Convection is caused by the circulation of air aiding in the heat exchange away from or toward an object due to the refreshing of the air temperature next to the animal. (Think of convection ovens - they cook faster because the warm air is constantly bathing the cooler object. In your example, the fan is actually bringing cooler air (compared to the layer next to the animal's skin w/o a fan)to keep a higher temperature difference and more rapid heat loss from the animal.
Conduction is the process when you have actual contact with another object of a different temperature. So the cool blanket is conduction; the fan is convection.

Megan Brashear's picture

Thank you Janine, you are completely correct! I should add convection/conduction to my lateral/medial and left/right issues that my brain likes to swap. Thanks for the correction!

Lynda Paul's picture

I thought the current recommendation is to not apply alcohol to the foot pads as this can cause vasoconstriction and actually contribute to increasing the core temperature.

Megan Brashear's picture

Yes I've heard the reasoning about alcohol and vasoconstriction, there is also talk about systemic absorption of the alcohol and toxicity. I don't know that over such a small surface area (foot pads) you'll see a drastic difference either way (alcohol or not). I'd rather the staff put their time into placing an IV catheter, setting up a fan and soaking the patient with water rather than getting alcohol everywhere, proof or no proof I don't think it's worth the time. But it is one of those things people will continue to argue!