Frostbite—A Case Series From Arctic Greenland

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Abstract

Greenland is not only the largest island in the world, it is also the least densely populated country on the globe. The majority of Greenland's landmass lies within the Arctic Circle. Weather conditions in Arctic areas can be extreme, thus exposing locals and visitors to a high risk of acquiring frostbite injuries. More than two thirds of Greenland is covered by a permanent ice sheet, and temperatures can drop to below −70°C. In addition, frequent storms, occupational exposure, and alcohol all contribute to an increased risk for frostbite injury. Frostbite may cause major morbidity, including tissue loss and limb amputation. Hence, proper diagnosis and treatment of frostbite injuries is of utmost importance. We present 6 cases of frostbite injuries in Greenland, ranging from mild to severe frostbite in both locals and foreign visitors. The cases illustrate some of the known risk factors for frostbite injuries. The etiology, pathophysiology, clinical presentation, and recommended management of frostbite are summarized. Novel treatments for frostbite and frostbite sequelae are discussed in the context of the Greenlandic healthcare system. Furthermore, cultural aspects and reasons for a seemingly low incidence of frostbite injuries in Greenland are explored.

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Lorentzen, A. K., & Penninga, L. (2018). Frostbite—A Case Series From Arctic Greenland. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 29(3), 392–400. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wem.2018.03.001

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