Humans maintain a core body temperature close to 37°C. The temperature of the skin is normally 2-4°C cooler than the core temperature. This difference is maintained through thermoregulation. If core body temperature deviates from normal by too much, then metabolic functions deteriorate. Temperature below 36°C is considered hypothermic.1
Anaesthesia, both general and regional (spinal/epidural), disrupt thermoregulation and allow the warm core blood to flow to the skin, where it cools. This process causes the core temperature to fall by up to 1.6°C within the first hour of anaesthesia!2
Further to this, operating theatres are kept at approximately 21°C. Patients are exposed to this cool environment and once anaesthetised, are unable to move. The result is their core temperature continues to fall.
Perioperative hypothermia increases the patient’s risk of developing many adverse complications. These include increased blood loss, increased pain, increased risk of surgical site infection, and increased risk of cardiac disturbances.3
It is well documented that the negative effects of hypothermia add significant increased costs to the healthcare system, such as prolonged length of stay, cost of blood products, cost of treating wound infections, and increased re-admissions.3,4
An effective warming system needs to warm as much of the patient’s body surface area as possible. Manufacturers should be able to provide evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of their system. The measure of an effective forced-air warming blanket, is one that has a uniform temperature across the blanket and visible perforations which allow the warm air to flow over the patient’s skin, transferring heat to a greater surface area5,6,7.
There are multiple positions and situations in surgery, where large areas of the patient’s body must be exposed, and these patients can be difficult to actively warm. Having multiple types of forced air warming blanket is critical. Underbody warming, specialty blankets, and conformable blankets are necessary in addition to traditional upper, lower and full body blankets, to warm patients in all positions.
Conductive systems only warm the patient where they make contact with the patient, while convective forced-air systems warm a larger surface area by blowing warm air over the patient’s skin. Over body blankets also reduce heat loss by insulating the patient at the same time.8,9
This helps to reduce the impact on the patient’s core temperature when the warm core blood flows to the skin. Patients should also be actively warmed during surgery using forced-air warming.10,11,12
This should be done throughout the perioperative journey. The device used should provide a direct measure of core temperature, not an estimate.10,11,12
You can also ask us to send our product comparison tool to compare and contrast the different market options based on the relevant criteria. This will help assess the most suitable solution for your organisation and operating room.
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