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Hypothermia

Get clinical answers to frequently asked questions about hypothermia.

  • Is it acceptable to warm a patient by using the hose of the force air warming machine without connecting it to a blanket?

    An air hose without a blanket attached should never be used to warm a patient. Dangerously high air temperatures flow through the hose and patients have suffered serious burns as a result of this unsafe practice. Always use warming equipment in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions for use.

    Resources:

    • Guideline for the prevention of unplanned patient hypothermia. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.

    Updated November 17, 2015
  • Does AORN recommend a specific type of temperature measurement?
    The type of temperature measurement used is dependent upon the requirements of the procedure (eg, accessibility of the route, invasiveness of the route, anesthesia type, anesthesia delivery method). Temperature may be measured using core temperature sites (eg, tympanic membrane [via thermistor], distal esophagus, cutaneous [via zero-heat-flux thermometry], nasopharynx, pulmonary artery) or “near-core” sites (eg, mouth, axilla, bladder, rectum, skin, tympanic membrane [via infrared sensor]).

    Resources:
    • Guideline for the prevention of unplanned patient hypothermia. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.
    Updated November 17, 2015


  • May I change the temperature in the OR to go above or below the recommended temperature ranges?
    The temperature may be adjusted above or below the recommended temperature based upon the requirements of the patient. An example is increasing the temperature in the room for a burn or neonatal patient. After the procedure the temperature should be reset to be within the normal range.

    Resources:
    • Guideline for the prevention of unplanned patient hypothermia. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.
    • Guideline for a safe environment of care, part 2. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.
    Updated November 17, 2015
  • Which patients should have their temperature taken in the OR?
    All patients should have an intraoperative temperature taken. The AORN guidelines do not specify when it should be taken but states that a temperature should be taken in all phases of perioperative care.

    Resources:
    • Guideline for the prevention of unplanned patient hypothermia. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.
    Updated November 17, 2015
  • How often should the patient temperature be taken in the OR?

    AORN does not recommend a frequency therefore this needs to be determined by the organization.  An example is the temperature is taken every time the other vital signs are taken.

    Resources: 

    • Guideline for the prevention of unplanned patient hypothermia. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.

    Updated November 17, 2015

  • Does AORN recommend a specific type of warming method?

    AORN does not recommend a specific type of warming method. The selection of warming method should be determined by the perioperative team after a collaborative discussion among the team members. The team should consider the planned procedure, patient positioning, IV access sites, and warming equipment constraints (eg, access to the surgical site, skin surface area contact) when selecting the best method for warming the patient. 

    Resources: 

    • Guideline for the prevention of unplanned patient hypothermia. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.

    Updated November 17, 2015

  • How does AORN define hypothermia?

    A decrease in core body temperature below 36° C (96.8° F).

    Resources: 

    • Guideline for the prevention of unplanned patient hypothermia. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN, Inc.

    Updated November 17, 2015