Heat Wave in Italy and Hyperthermia Syndrome

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In the city of Modena, Italy, daily temperatures registered during the year 2003 showed a higher mean increase of 3° C compared with the previous three years, with average temperature of 26.1° C, compared with 22.8° C. The reported ambient temperature was higher than 32.3° C in 84% of the recorded days, and daily values exceeded 35.1° C in 62% of the days. During the summer, four heat waves occurred (June 11–15, July 21–23, August 3–15 and August 17–24).

Nine patients affected by hyperthermia syndrome with a mean body temperature of 41.4 ± 1.3° C were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Modena Teaching Hospital. Another patient with similar clinical features was not admitted to ICU, but to a general ward, and eventually died a few hours later. Mortality reached 80% and the mean survival time was 4.2 days with median values of one day. All patients except for one were admitted during one of the four above-mentioned heat waves, and in particular, 7 patients were admitted during the period from August 3rd to 15th. A common feature among 8 of the 10 patients was the chronic consumption of psychoactive drugs.

According to these observations, it is important to identify a population at risk in case of bioclimatological alarm, to find prevention strategies. It is extremely important in patients with hyperthermia to lower body temperature levels in the early hours to influence the malignant evolution of this severe pathologic process.

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