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Hilotherapy – keeping cool after surgery

Hilotherapy is the treatment of painful swelling and inflammation using tissue cooling techniques. The idea is simple, intuitive and as old as the hills! Almost everyone has had a cool pack applied to a sprained ankle, bruised knee or injured finger at some stage in their life and has experienced how the cooling effect helps reduce pain. Hilotherapy using the Hilotherm machine takes things a step further by allowing precise control of the temperature being applied to the body and keeps it constant (unlike cool packs which will warm up with the passage of time and have to potential to cause damage if ice is applied directly onto the skin). The cooling system delivers the water via a mask (as can be seen above) or garment which can be worn directly against the skin.

Although good for knocks and sprains, the Hilotherm machine excels in treating post operative pain and swelling – meaning less inflammation, bruising and down time for patients, together with less discomfort. In essence the treatment works as a result of the cool temperature causing the small blood vessels in the skin and soft tissues to shrink in diameter (vasoconstriction), which in turn limits fluid loss from them. It is this fluid loss (known as oedema) which causes swelling. Additionally the decrease in temperature reduces the activity of the enzymes within the soft tissues that are responsible for releasing the chemicals which drive further swelling and cause pain. The key thing about using cold as a treatment though is the delivery of an exact and constant temperature – 15 to 16 degrees centigrade is the optimum for achieving maximum vasoconstriction of the vessels – below this and the effect reverses causing increased fluid leakage (probably caused by paralysis of the muscles in the blood vessel wall or by blocking function in the nerves that control the diameter of the blood vessels). Using the Hilotherm machine a precise and constant temperature can be delivered to the site of surgery hour after hour after hour!

After seeing a patient of mine have breast surgery and leave hospital the following day pain free and having only needed paracetamol over night I have been converted to using the Hilotherm and can now offer it to all my patients having just taken delivery of one. Particularly useful for day case surgery, upper and lower eyelid reduction (blepharoplasty) surgery, liposuction under local anaesthetic, facelift surgery and after certain body contouring procedures (such as arm lift surgery) I am looking forward to it helping my patients to the speediest recovery from surgery possible!

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