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Deaths From Hypothermia

Ross E. Zumwalt, MD; Elizabeth Kicklighter, MD
JAMA. 1986;256(9):1136. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380090064012.
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To the Editor.—  The mortality data for hypothermia-associated deaths based on death certificates in the Jan 17 issue of JAMA1 do not accurately represent the true incidence of either primary or secondary hypothermia, particularly in the elderly. We reviewed medical records of ward deaths of elderly patients in a large university hospital during two successive winters and identified six delayed deaths (24 hours to 16 days) following admission with hypothermia. Rectal temperatures on arrival to the emergency unit ranged from 24°C to 35°C (75°F to 95°F). There were three men and three women between 79 and 91 years of age. Investigations of the circumstances surrounding the admissions indicated the cause of hypothermia as primary in three instances and secondary in the other three. In three of the six instances (one primary and two secondary) hypothermia was not considered by the treating physician as the cause of death or a


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