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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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.


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.


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.


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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