Optimal Nasopharyngeal Temperature Probe Placement

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Although the nasopharynx is a commonly used temperature-monitoring site during general anesthesia, it is unknown whether the position of nasopharyngeal temperature probes placed blindly by anesthesia practitioners is optimal. The purposes of this study were (1) to determine where the nasopharyngeal mucosa is in closest proximity to the internal carotid artery (ICA) and (2) to evaluate the tip position of nasopharyngeal temperature probes that were placed by anesthesiology residents and nurse anesthetists.

METHODS:

In the first phase of the study, we reviewed enhanced axial computed tomography images of 100 patients to determine where the nasopharyngeal mucosa was in closest proximity to the left or the right ICA. The distance from this point to the nares was then measured in the sagittal image. In the second phase of the study, nasendoscopy was used to evaluate the positioning of nasopharyngeal temperature probes placed by anesthesiology residents (244 patients) or nurse anesthetists (116 patients). Malpositioned probes were repositioned to an optimal location, and the temperature differences were recorded.

RESULTS:

In the computed tomography images, the mucosa in closest proximity to the ICA was in the upper, mid-, and lower nasopharynx in 60%, 38%, and 2% of patients, respectively. The average distances between the ICA and the nasopharyngeal mucosa in the upper portion were significantly shorter than those in the lower portion (female: 9.4 vs 16.8 mm, P < 0.001; male: 12.4 vs 18.8 mm, P < 0.001). The average distances (95% prediction interval) from the nares to the upper portion of the nasopharynx through the inferior meatus were 9.1 (8.1–10.2) cm in females and 9.7 (8.6–10.8) cm in males. Temperature probes were correctly positioned in the upper or mid-nasopharynx by residents and nurses in 43% (95% confidence interval [CI], 37%–49%) and 41% (95% CI, 36%–50%), respectively. When the probe was inadvertently placed in the nasal cavity, the median (95% CI) temperature difference from the upper nasopharynx was 0.2°C (0.15°C–0.25°C).

CONCLUSIONS:

The closest portion of the nasopharyngeal mucosa to the ICA is within the upper or mid-nasopharynx. The depth from the nares to the upper one-third of the nasopharynx is approximately 10 cm. Less than half of nasopharyngeal temperature probes placed blindly by practitioners were optimally positioned.

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