Friday, January 8, 2010

Frostbite


The answer to yesterdays Medical Challenge was..you guess it...frostbite. Frostbite occurs when tissue is exposed to temperatures below the freezing point of skin. It can happen to anyone, even those acclimated to cold climate. As the body gets colder and colder the blood vessels in the extremities constrict to send more blood to vital organs. That is why fingers, toes, noses and ears are so susceptible to frostbite. Deep frostbite causes swelling and blood-filled blisters. Clear blisters with intact sensation have a better prognosis than blisters with dark fluid.

The amount of final tissue destruction is proportional to the time it remains frozen. Rapid transport to a hospital is important for supervised warming. A water bath heated to 104-107.6F is best for rapid thawing. This can be very painful and dehydration is possible so IV fluids may be needed to treat hypothermia.

It's cold out there so bundle up, wear hats, gloves and heavy socks.

6 comments:

nitrile gloves said...

That is cool fingers... I follow your blog for quite a long time and should tell that your articles always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

Anonymous said...

Can this be reversed with medical treatment or is it permeant damage?

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Anon: The degree of reversal depends upon the time spent in frozen circumstances and the degree of tissue damage. The dark bullae (blisters) indicate more serious tissue damage and reversal will probably not occur. The person may lose his fingers and will certainly lose sensation and flexibility. Rapid warming is important but not guaranteed for such a serious case of frostbite.

Anonymous said...

If there is one large clear blister will the person recover completely? The blister appeared about two days after freezing and has become larger each day but has remained clear over the past five days. Site was hard and white/yellow upon freezing was thawed under room temp tap water. Was frozen for less than 10 minutes. How long is the recovery.

Genny Fullerton said...

Is this your own photo of frostbite? I'm looking for an image to use in Backpacker magazine of frostbite blisters. Please contact me at work: gfullerton@backpacker.com or 303-625-1613 Thank you! - Genny.

Ulixis said...

really awesome medical picture...