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Buffalo Bills' Everett May Walk Again

Football Player Kevin Everett May Have Better Prognosis Due to Swift Hypothermia Treatment
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Bills' Player Recovers

Sept. 12, 2007 -- Hospitalized Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett has moved his arms and legs, raising hopes that he may one day walk again.

Everett sustained a severe spinal cord injury in Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos. Minutes later, Everett got what's called modest or moderate hypothermia treatment from Andrew Cappuccino, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon for the Buffalo Bills.

Everett, 25, is being treated in Buffalo at the Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital, where he had surgery for his injuries. Everett is awake and asking questions, and he is no longer on a ventilation (breathing) machine. Everett is being fed through a feeding tube and is taking medication to try to prevent clots from forming in this legs, doctors said at a news conference today.

When Everett arrived at the hospital on Sunday, he couldn't move his arms or legs. Since then, he has been able to move his legs and ankles, bend his hip, wiggle his toes, and move some arm muscles.

WebMD spoke with professor Barth Green, MD, FACS, about Everett's hypothermia treatment. Green chairs the neurosurgery department at the University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. He's also the president and co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which is part of the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

Everett's prognosis is "very good," Green tells WebMD. Having talked with Everett's doctors, Green predicts that Everett will walk again.

"He's got good movement in his arms and legs, and his legs are moving better than his arms," says Green. "That's wonderful."

Kevin Everett's Treatment

Green explained the hypothermia treatment Everett received on Sunday.

"He received ice-cold saline, which is a salt solution, into the veins of his arm. That lowered his whole body temperature," Green says.

"This is just a minimal drop in temperature from 98.6 to to 92 degrees Fahrenheit, for example," Green says. "What this does is just like putting an ice pack on a bruised arm. It prevents the hemorrhage and swelling that would occur if you didn't put an ice pack on. It's as simple as that. So it prevents the spinal cord from self-destructing" after the initial injury, says Green.

Timing, Temperature Count

The speedy timing of Everett's treatment was "totally, totally important," says Green. He notes that as far has he knows, Everett was the first person to get hypothermia treatment so quickly for a spinal cord injury.

He points out that Cappuccino had earlier attended a Miami Project lecture about hypothermia treatment.

It's crucial that the hypothermia technique not drop the patient's temperature too low.

"If it drops below 92 [degrees Fahrenheit], patients can develop cardiac arrhythmias or bleeding problems, so you don't want it to get too cold," Green says. "That's why it's called modest or moderate hypothermia, rather than profound hypothermia."

Doctors also gave Everett hypothermia treatment at the hospital.

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