Comparison of Two Different Temperature Maintenance Strategies during Open Abdominal Surgery: Upper Body Forced-air Warming versus Whole Body Water Garment

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Abstract

Background

A new system has been developed that circulates warm water through a whole body garment worn by the patient during surgery. In this study the authors compared two different strategies for the maintenance of intraoperative normothermia. One strategy used a new water garment warming system that permitted active warming of both the upper and lower extremities and the back. The other strategy used a single (upper body) forced-air warming system.

Methods

In this prospective, randomized study, 53 adult patients were enrolled in one of two intraoperative temperature management groups during open abdominal surgery with general anesthesia. The water-garment group (n = 25) received warming with a body temperature (rectal) set point of 36.8°C. The forced-air–warmer group (n = 28) received routine warming therapy using upper body forced-air warming system (set on high). The ambient temperature in the operating room was maintained constant at approximately 20°C. Rectal, distal esophageal, tympanic, forearm, and fingertip temperatures were recorded perioperatively and during 2 h after surgery. Extubated patients in both groups were assessed postoperatively for shivering, use of additional warming devices, and subjective thermal comfort.

Results

The mean rectal and esophageal temperatures at incision, 1 h after incision, at skin closure, and immediately postoperatively were significantly higher (0.4–0.6°C) in the group that received water-garment warming when compared with the group that received upper body forced-air warming. The calculated 95% confidence intervals for the above differences in core temperatures were 0.7–0.1, 0.8–0.2, 0.8–0.2, and 0.9–0.1, retrospectively. In addition, 14 and 7% of patients in the control upper body forced-air group remained hypothermic (< 35.5°C) 1 and 2 h after surgery, respectively. No core temperature less than 35.5°C was observed perioperatively in any of the patients from the water-garment group. A similar frequency of the thermal stress events (shivering, use of additional warming devices, subjective thermal discomfort) was observed after extubation in both groups during the 2 h after surgery.

Conclusions

The investigated water warming system, by virtue of its ability to deliver heat to a greater percentage of the body, results in better maintenance of intraoperative normothermia that does forced-air warming applied only to the upper extremities, as is common practice.

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