Optimal Duration and Temperature of Prewarming

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BackgroundCore hypothermia developing immediately after induction of anesthesia results largely from an internal core-to-peripheral redistribution of body heat. Although difficult to treat, redistribution can be prevented by prewarming. The benefits of prewarming may be limited by sweating, thermal discomfort, and efficacy of the warming device. Accordingly, the optimal heater temperature and minimum warming duration likely to substantially reduce redistribution hypothermia were evaluated.MethodsSweating, thermal comfort, and extremity heat content were evaluated in seven volunteers. They participated on two study days, each consisting of a 2-h control period followed by 2 h of forced-air warming with the heater set on “medium” ([nearly equal] 40 degrees Celsius) or “high” ([nearly equal] 43 degrees Celsius). Arm and leg tissue heat contents were determined from 19 intramuscular needle thermocouples, ten skin temperatures, and “deep” foot temperature.ResultsHalf the volunteers started sweating during the second hour of warming. None of the volunteers felt uncomfortably warm during the first hour of heating, but many subsequently did. With the heater set on “high,” arm and leg heat content increased 69 kcal during the first 30 min of warming and 136 kcal during the first hour of warming, representing 38% and 75%, respectively, of the values observed after 2 h of warming. The increase was only slightly less when the heater was set to “medium.”ConclusionsNeither sweating nor thermal discomfort limited heat transfer during the first hour of warming. Thirty minutes of forced-air warming increased peripheral tissue heat content by more than the amount normally redistributed during the first hour of anesthesia. The large increase in arm and leg heat content during prewarming thus explains the observed efficacy of prewarming.

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