Recognition and Treatment of Freezing and Nonfreezing Cold Injuries

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This article reviews recent medical literature to provide an overview of the recognition and treatment of the two broad categories of cold injuries, freezing and nonfreezing. Frostbite, a freezing cold injury, is treated traditionally with rapid rewarming followed by tissue care and surgical debridement of necrotic tissue. Recently, newer therapies aimed at prevention of tissue necrosis have shown improved outcomes compared with more traditional therapies. These newer treatment regimens for frostbite include the use of various drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, warfarin, tissue plasminogen activator, and prostacyclin. The use of 99mTc bone scans, magnetic resonance imaging arthrogram, or angiography may have prognostic value for early determination of the extent of tissue loss. The more common nonfreezing cold injuries, though less severe than frostbite, may lead to short- and long-term complications requiring treatment and are discussed also.

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