What is included in inpatient care for frostbite?

Updated: Oct 13, 2020
  • Author: Bobak Zonnoor , MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Because the initial insult is not predictive of the final outcome, most patients with frostbite must be hospitalized for 24-48 hours to assess the extent of injury. The mean length of hospital stay for all levels of frostbite ranges from 8.5-33.2 days.

Daily wound care includes bivalving of any constricting eschars. Most skin grafting and amputations occur during weeks 3 or 4 after the injury.

Use hydrotherapy (ie, whirlpool bath filled with lukewarm water [40°C] and surgical soap) for 30-45 minutes twice daily until the eschar sloughs off. This measure reduces infection, facilitates debridement, and softens the eschar.

Avoid smoking, because nicotine causes vasoconstriction. [28] No restriction on diet is required, but a high-protein, high-calorie diet is suggested to promote healing.

Rest the injured area initially. Elevation helps to reduce swelling. Place cotton pledgets between frostbitten digits to decrease tissue maceration. Perform physical therapy to increase flexibility and dexterity once the injury begins to heal. Encourage active motion of the affected part as soon as possible.

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