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Archive March 2020 XXI, No. 3

Standardize Your Patient Warming Protocols

Preventing inadvertent perioperative hypothermia demands placing a premium on active prewarming.

Anita Volpe

Anita Volpe, DNP, APRN


REAL TIME Prewarming should be done for procedures lasting as little as 15 minutes because, ultimately, the patient will be in the OR for more than 30 minutes.

I was recruited to work at New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital and assigned the task of reducing the rate of surgical site infections among colorectal surgery patients. I immediately noticed all patients weren't being warmed preoperatively and asked OR leadership, "That's interesting, you don't prewarm patients here?" I was told, "No, they're warm." But were they? Consider these eye-opening statistics:

  • Research shows 70% of surgical patients develop inadvertent perioperative hypothermia (IPH).
  • Patients who lose just one degree or more of body heat are at increased risk for a morbid event.
  • SSIs are responsible for 40% of infections in the surgical population, and IPH is associated with an increased incidence of post-op infection.

The OR leadership's response spoke volumes, not only about how things were done at our facility back then, but also about the attitude far too many surgical staff have regarding patient warming. When it comes to maintaining normothermia, there's simply no excuse for not actively prewarming your patients.

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