Heat Flow and Distribution during Induction of General Anesthesia

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Abstract

Background

Core hypothermia after induction of general anesthesia results from an internal core-to-peripheral redistribution of body heat and a net loss of heat to the environment. However, the relative contributions of each mechanism remain unknown. The authors evaluated regional body heat content and the extent to which core hypothermia after induction of anesthesia resulted from altered heat balance and internal heat redistribution.

Methods

Six minimally clothed male volunteers in an [nearly equal] 22 degrees Celsius environment were evaluated for 2.5 control hours before induction of general anesthesia and for 3 subsequent hours. Overall heat balance was determined from the difference between cutaneous heat loss (thermal flux transducers) and metabolic heat production (oxygen consumption). Arm and leg tissue heat contents were determined from 19 intramuscular needle thermocouples, 10 skin temperatures, and “deep” foot temperature. To separate the effects of redistribution and net heat loss, we multiplied the change in overall heat balance by body weight and the specific heat of humans. The resulting change in mean body temperature was subtracted from the change in distal esophageal (core) temperature, leaving the core hypothermia specifically resulting from redistribution.

Results

Core temperature was nearly constant during the control period but decreased 1.6 plus/minus 0.3 degrees Celsius in the first hour of anesthesia. Redistribution contributed 81% to this initial decrease and required transfer of 46 kcal from the trunk to the extremities. During the subsequent 2 h of anesthesia, core temperature decreased an additional 1.1 plus/minus 0.3 degrees Celsius, with redistribution contributing only 43%. Thus, only 17 kcal was redistributed during the second and third hours of anesthesia. Redistribution therefore contributed 65% to the entire 2.8 plus/minus 0.5 degrees Celsius decrease in core temperature during the 3 h of anesthesia. Proximal extremity heat content decreased slightly after induction of anesthesia, but distal heat content increased markedly. The distal extremities thus contributed most to core cooling. Although the arms constituted only a fifth of extremity mass, redistribution increased arm heat content nearly as much as leg heat content. Distal extremity heat content increased [nearly equal] 40 kcal during the first hour of anesthesia and remained elevated for the duration of the study.

Conclusions

The arms and legs are both important components of the peripheral thermal compartment, but distal segments contribute most. Core hypothermia during the first hour after induction resulted largely from redistribution of body heat, and redistribution remained the major cause even after 3 h of anesthesia.

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