What is the mortality and morbidity of hypothermia?

Updated: Dec 10, 2019
  • Author: James Li, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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According to one study, overall in-patient mortality in hypothermic patients was 12%. Most people tolerate mild hypothermia (32-35°C body temperature) fairly well, which is not associated with significant morbidity or mortality. In contrast, a multicenter survey found a 21% mortality rate for patients with moderate hypothermia (28-32°C body temperature). Mortality is even higher in severe hypothermia (core temperature below 28°C). Despite hospital-based treatment, mortality from moderate or severe hypothermia approaches 40%. Patients experiencing concurrent infection account for most deaths due to hypothermia. Other comorbidities associated with higher mortality rates include homelessness, alcoholism, psychiatric disease, and advanced age.

"Indoor hypothermia" is more likely to occur in patients with significant medical comorbidities (alcoholism, sepsis, hypothyroidism/hypopituitarism) and tends to carry worse outcomes than exposure hypothermia.

According to current records, approximately 700 people die in the United States from accidental primary hypothermia each year.

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