Sumary of As extreme heat becomes more common, ERs turn to body bags to save lives:
- As a deadly heat wave scorched the Pacific Northwest last month, overwhelming hospital emergency rooms in a region unaccustomed to triple-digit temperatures, doctors resorted to a grim but practical tool to save lives: human body bags filled with ice and water.
- Officials at hospitals in Seattle and Renton, Washington, said that as more people arrived experiencing potentially fatal heatstroke, and with cooling catheters and even ice packs in short supply, they used the novel treatment to quickly immerse and cool several elderly people.
- Zipping heatstroke patients into ice-filled body bags worked so well that it could become a go-to treatment in a world increasingly altered by climate change, said Dr. Alex St.
- John, an emergency physician at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center.
- A disposable body bag and buckets of ice are prepared for a cold-water immersion of a patient, as shown in a case report from the Stanford University School of Medicine.
- Dr. Alexei Wagner / Stanford University School of MedicineDespite the macabre connotation of body bags, using them is a cheap, convenient and scalable way to treat patients in mass casualty emergencies caused by excessive heat, said Dr. Grant Lipman, a Stanford University professor of emergency medicine.
- He co-authored a pioneering case study documenting the use of what doctors call “human remains pouches” for heatstroke.
- “When people are this sick, you’ve got to cool them down fast,” Lipman said.