Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Cold Snap

In search of the best way to treat frostbite saving digits and limbs

07 March 2020

Cold Snap

Doctors often compare notes, sharing their experiences and 'best practice' on how to treat diseases. When cases are rare, or spread over the globe, published medical reviews help to bring international findings together, looking for patterns in the pooled information that might lead to better treatments. A recent review on frostbite suggests injection with tissue plasminogen activator, a protein involving in reducing blood clots, has saved many digits from amputation, including the top two fingers of this 54-year old man. Clotting is one by-product of the body’s response to ice crystals formed inside blood vessels (seen here in black) – so it’s no surprise that heparin, a drug that helps 'thin' the blood, also helped in his treatment. Combination treatments like these may help doctors prepare for the ongoing rise in cold injury cases.

Written by John Ankers

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