Perfusion. 2002 Jul;17(4):279-90.

Whole-body hyperthermia: a review of theory, design and application.

Vertree RALeeth AGirouard MRoach JDZwischenberger JB.


Department of Surgery, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston 77555-0528, USA.


The intentional induction of elevated body temperature to treat malignant lesions has its origins in the 18th century. The mechanism of heat-induced cell death is not clear; however, heat induces a variety of cellular changes. For heat to exert a therapeutic effect, pathogens (bacteria, viruses, or neoplastic tissues) need to be susceptible within temperature ranges that do not exert deleterious effects on normal tissues. Hyperthermia has been used successfully to treat isolated neoplastic lesions of the head and neck, regional tumors such as melanoma of the limb, and is under investigation as either an adjunct to, or therapyfor, locally disseminated and systemic diseases. The clinical utility of perfusion hyperthermia has evolved into three approaches – isolated organ or limb, tumorous invasion of a cavity, and systemic or metastatic spread. When whole-body hyperthermic treatment has been tried, it has been induced in the patient by submersion in hot wax or liquid, wrapping in plastic, encasement in a high-flow water perfusion suit, or by extracorporeal perfusion. Our group has developed an extracorporeal method, veno-venous perfusion-induced systemic hyperthermia, that was used first to safely heat swine homogenously to an average body temperature of 43 degrees C for 2 h. More recently, a Phase I clinical trial has been completed in which all patients were safely heated to 42 or 42.5 degrees C for 2 h and survived the 30-day study period. We have been sufficiently encouraged by these results and are continuing to develop this technology.