Taking the fight to frostbite

This is the kind of image you want to see – or, perhaps more accurately, your doctor to see – if you are suffering from severe frostbite.

It shows improved perfusion of digital arteries in the hand of a 54-year-old man after the administration of drugs commonly used to dissolve blood clots – a process known as thrombolytic therapy.

In a new paper that is very much for the specialists, radiologists John Lee and Mikhail Higgins from the Boston Medical Centre, US, assess and advise on various techniques and clinical management paradigms designed to reduce the likelihood of a limb or digits being lost to frostbite.

Too often, they say, clinical management still consists primarily of “tissue rewarming, prolonged watchful waiting, and often delayed amputation”.

“For many years the axiom ‘frostbite in January, amputate in July’ was an accurate description of the common outcome in frostbite injuries.”

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