Hypothermia in sepsis is generally perceived as something dysregulated and progressive although there has been no assessment on the natural course of this phenomenon in humans. This was the first study on the dynamics of hypothermia in septic patients not subjected to active rewarming, and the results were surprising. A sample of 50 subjects presenting with spontaneous hypothermia during sepsis was drawn from the 2005-2012 database of an academic hospital. Hypothermia was defined as body temperature below 36.0°C for longer than 2 h, with at least one reading of 35.5°C or less. The patients presented with 138 episodes of hypothermia, 21 at the time of the sepsis diagnosis and 117 with a later onset. However, hypothermia was uncommon in the final 12 h of life of the patients that succumbed. The majority (97.1%) of the hypothermic episodes were transient and self-limited; the median recovery time was 6 h; body temperature rarely fell below 34.0°C. Bidirectional oscillations in body temperature were evident in the course of hypothermia. Nearly half of the hypothermic episodes had onset in the absence of shock or respiratory distress, and the incidence of hypothermia was not increased during either of these conditions. Usage of antipyretic drugs, sedatives, neuroleptics, or other medications did not predict the onset of hypothermia. In conclusion, hypothermia appears to be a predominantly transient, self-limiting, and nonterminal phenomenon that is inherent to human sepsis. These characteristics resemble those of the regulated hypothermia shown to replace fever in animal models of severe systemic inflammation.
- systemic inflammatory response syndrome
- septic shock
- critical care
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