Pathophysiology and clinical findings

As the body temperature drops there is a progressive slowing in enzymatic and biochemical reactions. Oxygen consumption falls, reaching 50 per cent of normal at 30 °C and 10 to 20 per cent at 20 °C. This low metabolic rate allows organ preservation and survival with very low oxygen requirement. However, early in the development of accidental hypothermia, there is an increase in metabolic rate due to shivering, voluntary muscle activity, and involuntary muscle rigidity. Organ function is preserved provided that oxygen requirements are met.

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