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Chilling heart attack patients


3 Star

Chilling heart attack patients

Our Review Summary

This is a story about "The idea … that cooling a comatose patient after a heart attack prevents brain damage."   A simple claim of 14% improved survival was made, without clarification about the types of patients who were seen to benefit from the treatment nor any reference for understanding the magnitude that this benefit represented.

It was interesting that the patient chosen for the story was one who worked in a company that made defibrillators and that his co-workers were able to provide CPR and electrical stimulation to his heart right away.  This was an aspect of the story that was not discussed but likely also played a role in his good outcome. 

However, a perhaps more interesting story is why this therapy is not more widely used.  Is there reluctance on the part of physicians to use this technology? Or is it not helpful to enough patients to make the investment in the equipment to control the lowering and maintenance of a lowered body temperature?


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Although one of the physicians commenting on the treatment contrasted this treatment with the situation in medicine where there are expensive treatments that may make little difference – and explained this procedure as being just "ice"  – the video showed some specialized equipment for controlled lowering of body temperature. The story gave no estimate for the cost of the treatment.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The benefit of this treatment was described as an improved survival rate by 14%.  However, without the starting point, i.e. the number of individuals who have had a heart attack and are brought to an emergency treatment facility within a specified amount of time, it is not possible to understand the magnitude of the benefit that may be gained. Viewers are left wondering "14% of what?"

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of potential harms that might be associated with hypothermia treatment after a heart attack.  There was no discussion of conditions or medication use that might lessen or eliminate the benefit that this treatment might confer.

Although one of the clinicians said "ice packs can do the job", there have been some studies to suggest that the percentage of surviving patients is lower in the group whose temperatures went too low.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

While there was mention of 'research' that showed this treatment improved the survival 14%, there was no discussion about the nature of the work demonstrating efficacy of this intervention.  Even mention of a 14% improvement is not helpful because we have no idea about what the starting point was. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story did not overtly engage in disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


A patient who underwent this treatment and had a good outcome as well as two physicians (a neurologist and a cardiologist) at a hospital which uses this treatment were interviewed for this story.

It would have been helpful to understand why only a limited number of hospitals include this treatment in their management of heart attack.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of treatment options that might be presented to a patient arriving at an emergency department.  It would have been helpful to understand more about the nature of the patients for whom this treatment is appropriate – how long after they have had a heart attack, patients who were unconscious after having a heart attack, those who have had to undergo defribrillation, etc.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story mentioned that this treatment is not available at most hospitals.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story is relatively clear that hypothermia for management of individuals who have recently had a heart attack is not new.


Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory


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