Small prospective trial suggests effectiveness of newly developed frostbite treatment

April 1, 2008

St. Paul, Minn. - Using imaging to visualize areas lacking blood flow and deliver clot-breaking, anti-spasmodic drugs via catheter has proved to be an effective treatment for people who suffer severe frostbite, Newswise.com reports.

St. Paul, Minn. - Using imaging to visualize areas lacking blood flow and deliver clot-breaking, anti-spasmodic drugs via catheter has proved to be an effective treatment for people who suffer severe frostbite, Newswise.com reports.

According to results of a study conducted by George R. Edmonson, M.D., interventional radiologist at St. Paul Radiology, the frostbite treatment approach uses angiography to confirm loss of blood flow to the affected area, then intra-arterial catheters to directly deliver drugs to dissolve the blood clots and relax the arteries’ muscular walls.

In a small prospective trial conducted on victims of severe frostbite, the treatment was successful in preventing amputation and saving limbs, according to the study released in March at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 33rd Annual Scientific Meeting.

Newswise.com quotes Dr. Edmonson as saying, “Previously, severe frostbite was a one-way route to limb loss. This treatment is a significant improvement. We’re opening arteries that are blocked so that tissues can heal and limbs can be salvaged. We were able to reopen even the smallest arteries, saving patients’ fingers and toes.”

According to Dr. Edmonson, in half of the patients who received the clot-dissolving drug tenecteplase, the technique worked effectively, saving all fingers, hands, toes and feet that otherwise would have been lost. “Overall, in about 80 percent of the cases, (the treatment) significantly improved patients’ outcomes. Within one to three days of treatment, we saw improvement,” Edmonson tells Newswise.com. The patients were followed for six weeks to assess final outcomes.

In the prospective trial, results from six frostbite patients, ages 18 to 65 years, who received tenecteplase were compared with results in 11 patients who had received reteplase. The trial was designed to see if the greater plasma stability of tenecteplase would lead to better results.

According to the study, about 80 percent of the patients’ affected limbs, fingers and toes responded with significant improvement. The study notes that research will continue in order to improve and modify protocols.