Hypothermia and cold injuries

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Exposure to cold, whether for recreational or occupational purposes, can lead to the development of local or systemic cold-related injuries. Our research endeavors in this field are dedicated to exploring the various health effects associated with cold stress, accidental hypothermia, avalanche burial, and frostbite. Accidental hypothermia is characterised by an involuntary drop in core body temperature below 35°C, which can occur in diseased or even in healthy individuals exposed to cold environments. As accidental hypothermia progresses, vital signs deteriorate, and the functioning of multiple organs diminishes, ultimately leading to cardiac arrest. Shockingly, thousands of people succumb to accidental hypothermia annually. Diagnosing it outside of a medical facility can be challenging, as can the critical decision-making process of identifying patients who require transfer to a high-level trauma center for extracorporeal life support. Snow avalanches represent one of the most prevalent hazards in snow-covered mountain regions worldwide, posing significant threats to both people and infrastructure. Survival when critically buried by an avalanche, hinges on factors such as burial duration and airway patency. The ability to breathe under avalanche debris depends on the presence of an air pocket and the characteristics of the surrounding snow. Comprehending the underlying pathophysiology is pivotal for formulating evidence-based recommendations. Frostbite, on the other hand, is a localized tissue injury induced by exposure to cold temperatures leading to freezing. Subfreezing temperatures may cause the formation of intra- and extracellular ice, resulting in cell death and tissue damage. Upon rewarming, reperfusion injury can trigger inflammation and ischemia, further exacerbating tissue damage. Clinically, frostbite manifests a spectrum of injuries, from minimal tissue loss to extensive necrosis necessitating amputation. Our research studies are designed to advance our understanding of the pathophysiology of cold-related injuries, develop innovative diagnostic and therapeutic devices and triage tools, collect clinical and experimental data, and formulate evidence-based recommendations for the prevention, rescue, and medical management of cold injuries. We have direct access to the terraXcube research infrastructure, enabling our collaborators to drive innovation and lead impactful projects through our extensive network with major clinical and research institutions dedicated to investigating cold-related injuries.