What is the pathophysiology of classic heat stroke?

Updated: Nov 06, 2018
  • Author: Robert S Helman, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

When heat gain exceeds heat loss, the body temperature rises. Classic heat stroke occurs in individuals who lack the capacity to modulate the environment (eg, infants, elderly individuals, individuals who are chronically ill). Furthermore, elderly persons and patients with diminished cardiovascular reserves are unable to generate and cope with the physiologic responses to heat stress and, therefore, are at risk of heat stroke. Patients with skin diseases and those taking medications that interfere with sweating also are at increased risk for heat stroke because they are unable to dissipate heat adequately. Additionally, the redistribution of blood flow to the periphery, coupled with the loss of fluids and electrolytes in sweat, place a tremendous burden on the heart, which ultimately may fail to maintain an adequate cardiac output, leading to additional morbidity and mortality.


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