Archive August 2016 XVII, No. 8

Thinking of Buying ... Patient Warming Solutions

What's the best way to maintain normothermia in your patients?

David Bernard, Senior Associate Editor


Anesthesia costs the average surgical patient 3°C, a debt that can easily push him into perioperative hypothermia. Even mild hypothermia can increase bleeding, pain and infection, prolong PACU stay and delay wound healing. It doesn't do much for patient satisfaction scores, either. Fortunately, you've got a wide array of options for keeping core temperatures between 36° and 38°C. From convective (forced-air) warming technologies to electrically conductive table pads, and from blanket and fluid warming cabinets to heat-reflective garments, the goal of maintaining normothermia and ensuring comfort before, during and after surgery for every patient is within your reach.

But given the many solutions available, how do you know which ones will work best for your facility? We've compiled information on 15 warming products on the next several pages. First, though, here are 3 factors experts say you should consider before making your purchasing decision.

What procedures are you doing? Or, to be more specific, what parts of the body are your surgeons operating on? The answer to this question will help to determine whether a warming method can flexibly accommodate patients' and physicians' needs.

Anesthesia impairs the body's thermoregulatory responses, rendering it unable to shiver and generate heat on its own. Add to that situation the typical chill of the perioperative environment and the exposed skin of the surgical patient, and there's a high likelihood you'll see a case of inadvertent hypothermia. Covering the patient's body with a forced-air, electric or cloth blanket can help to head off hypothermia, but between pre-op and PACU, the surgeon will need access to knees, hips, abdomens or other anatomy. Make sure that the warming methods you're considering offer configurations that are able to work around — or, in the case of underbody warmers, beneath — surgical site demands.

What's your surgical schedule look like? Cataract, pain management and some cosmetic surgery patients are in and out of the OR during the course of the surgical day. They spend such a short time under the knife and receive such light anesthesia that setting up extensive warming efforts for each one of them might seem overly time-consuming or costly. They may be best served by cloth blankets, fresh from a warming cabinet.

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