Whole Body Hyperthermia Therapy – General Info

The heckel – HT 2000 is medical device for whole-body hyperthermia treatment. Infrared hyperthermia (IRHT) as developed by Martin Heckel, MD, is a non-contacting method of supplying thermal energy to the body, storing this energy initially in the tissue and organs of the body periphery (temperature shell), and subsequently in the body center as well (temperature core). In this way – but without inducing fever – the treatment produces physiologically effective febrile temperatures in the entire organism. These temperatures can be increased or decreased and their duration varied as required.

The infrared radiation used has a high proportion of short wavelengths (infrared A) close to the range of light, and is radiated along with light. Complete reflection scattering of the primary radiation produces uniform, skin-compatible surface irradiation. Significant portions of this radiation penetrate the epidermis to a depth where the blood can absorb the heat thus released and distribute it throughout the body.

To prevent the body releasing the heat it receives in this way, a roomy insulating tent made of flexible, thermally insulating material is set up over the bed. The design of the bed itself is of no significance. The tent encloses an envelope of still, hot air around the body and excludes perspiration cooling. Perspiration-absorbent cotton clothing covering the patient provides additional thermal insulation.

The patient is recumbent inside the tend during the IR radiation phase, but enjoys freedom of movement. Windows in the roof of the tent permit eye contact and easy conversation, and can be opened to permit a regulated supply of air.

On completion of this phase, thermal insulation alone suffices to maintain the body temperature achieved by the IR radiation over a prolonged period of time (heat-retention phase). This achieved by wrapping the body in a thermal blanket.

Infrared whole-body hyperthermia treatment can raise body temperature to any desired level:

  • Pre-hyperthermia phase: Adjustment of differential between the shell and core temperatures of the body. (particularly muscular conditions)
  • Mild hyperthermia up to approximately 38.5˚ C (particularly disorders and lesions of the musculo-skeletal system).
  • Hyperthermia up to approximately 40.5˚ C or greater (other indications).

The hyperthermic treatment developed by Dr. Heckel considers the controlled elevation of body temperature as simulating the evolutionary reaction of living organisms to harmful factors. Consequently, the therapy is deliberately restricted to temperatures in the natural range of febrile reaction to infections.

The intended use of the “heckel – HT2000″ whole-body hyperthermia unit is whole-body hyperthermia treatment at the stated temperature stages.

Core temperature and pulse rate can be monitored and recorded electronically without disruption. EKG and other measurements are easily conducted while treatment is in progress, and the patient can receive an intravenous drip.

Physiological effects of infrared hyperthermia (IRHT):

Elevating temperature above the norm has diverse and far-reaching effects in all parts of the body:

  • thermally accelerates the biochemical metabolic processes (Hoff’s law) of the entire body and increases detoxification significantly
  • increases the permeability of cell membranes to water, oxygen, nutrients and drugs
  • supports reparative and regenerative processes
  • increases overall circulation and promotes blood circulation of tissues and organs, opens clogged collateral vessels
  • relieves the tonus of striated and smooth musculature causing muscle relaxation
  • increase the velocity of nerve conduction
  • activates sub-acute and chronic inflammation processes by way of promoting their cure
  • influences the immunological system profoundly
  • at sufficiently high temperatures, restricts the propagation of microorganisms and viruses and malignant cell division

These complex effects justify the interdisciplinary role of IRHT in therapy and prophylaxis. IRHT approximates to the physiological effects of fever and its principal aim is to activate the self-healing forces that are also the basis of maintaining health.

Methodological advantages over other means of whole-body hyperthermia:

  • Low heat strain on the thermosensors of the entire skin surface and maintenance of the physiological temperature in the body (as opposed to hot baths, water-heated jackets or blankets, saunas).
  • Effective thermal insulation of the body can be achieved without any delay on completion of the external heating phase. In this heat-retention phase the body temperature rises slightly further and can be maintained for a prolonged period without additional application of heat.
  • No contra-indications for treating patients with incorporated metal.
  • Straightforward monitoring of body temperature and other parameters (as opposed to high-frequency method).
  • Freedom of movement for patient and opportunities for distraction.


The indications for hyperthermia therapy are derived from the physiological effects of temperature elevation in the body as described above, especially the increased tissue nutrition, muscular detoning, reactivation of chronic inflammations, and restoration of normal immunologic reactions. In this context, IRHT is primarily a supportive mode of therapy in cases where treatment has proved ineffective or results are delayed, or if improvements are not sustained.

Primary indications:

  • muscular dystonia, soft-tissue rheumatism, arthrosis, fibromyalgia, trauma
  • bronchial asthma, chronic respiratory diseases, emphysema
  • chronic inflammatory processes of all types (eg) colitis, sinusitis, arthritis, lupus etc.
  • adjuvant treatment in oncology with or without conventional cancer treatment
  • Febrile temperatures up to 40.5˚ C, although directly not thermally lethal to malignant cells, activate immunological efficiency against tumor cell assemblies that remain vital after primary oncological therapy
  • Febrile temperatures also enhance the effect of ionizing radiation and chemotherapeutic preparations; in some circumstances, dosages and side effects can therefore be reduced.
  • Thermal regulation, often disrupted by cancer, can be unblocked.
  • Whole-body hyperthermia preparatory to oncological local or regional hyperthermia at temperatures up to or in excess of 43˚ C can reduce the removal of heat from the vicinity of the tumor and improve homogenous heating of the tumor.
  • IRHT is also feasible as prophylaxis for high-risk patients.
  • Trial treatment for illnesses which fail to respond to other therapies, especially allergies and dermatoses eg. chronic eczema/psoriasis, acne.

As a rule, the desired elevated temperature is maintained over 1-2 hours (following a mild familiarization session), although in principle the duration can be prolonged over several hours.

In the subsequent period (up to 72 hours), the illness/disease may become temporarily more pronounced, particularly in the case of chronic inflammations. In terms of overall prognostics, this is frequently to be interpreted as a positive sign. Similarly, previously non-diagnosed tumor growth can trigger painful reactions, thus becoming clinically manifest.

Serial treatment and frequency:

  • IRHT is always performed in a series of at least 3 but usually 6-12 sessions or more depending on the underlying condition.
  • The intervals between the sessions depend on the patient’s reaction and vary between 1 and 7 days (e.g. 6 sessions within a three-week period).
  • IRHT series can be repeated any number of times; but an interval of 2-3 months is recommended, because in many instances several weeks must elapse before the final effect of the first series can be assessed.