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Archive Anesthesia 2016

Hidden Benefits of Patient Warming

The value of maintaining normothermia extends beyond contentment into the not-so-obvious areas of infection prevention and pain management.

Wes Webster, MSN, RN, CRNA


warming patient JUST THE START Actively warming patients in pre-op is not enough to prevent hypothermia.

When you actively warm patients from pre-op straight through to PACU, you're doing a lot more for them than stopping the shivers. You're also helping to control their pain and prevent surgical site infections (SSIs). Read on to find out more about how you can avoid serious adverse effects associated with hypothermia by using active warming methods.

  • Pain control. Over 30 years of anesthesia practice and reams of research have taught me that perioperative hypothermia (even mild hypothermia) has a profound impact on pain control, and optimizing surgical patients' perioperative body temperature can diminish their post-operative pain. Even though the link is not well understood, research has shown that hypothermia can and does affect patients' experience of post-operative pain.

You've no doubt seen hypothermic patients. They're tense, they're shivering and they're struggling to get their surgical pain under control. Shivering is remarkably uncomfortable and upsetting, so much so that some patients rate post-operative shivering and the feeling of cold associated with it as worse than surgical pain. On its own, shivering can aggravate post-operative pain simply through involuntary muscle contractions, contributing to surgical incision pain. Shivering has also been demonstrated to consume a huge amount of oxygen while increasing myocardial workload, and it increases intraocular and intracranial pressures.

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