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Monitoring temperature in children undergoing anaesthesia: a comparison of methods

Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Perth, Western Australia

Summary

Children undergoing anaesthesia are prone to hypothermia. Perioperative monitoring of patient temperature is, therefore, standard practice. Postoperative temperature is regarded as a key anaesthetic performance indicator in Australian hospitals. Many different methods and sites of temperature measurement are used perioperatively. It is unclear to what degree these methods might be interchangeable. The aim of this study was to determine the relationships between temperatures measured at different sites in anaesthetised children. Two hundred children, 0 to 17 years, undergoing general anaesthesia for elective non-cardiac surgery, were prospectively recruited. Temperature measurements were taken in the operating theatre concurrently at the nasopharynx, tympanic membranes, temporal artery, axilla and skin (chest). Patient age and weight were documented. Temperatures varied according to site of measurement. The mean difference from nasopharyngeal temperature to temperatures at left and right tympanic, temporal, axillary and cutaneous sites were +0.24°C, +0.24°C, +0.35°C, -0.38°C and -1.70°C, respectively. Levels of agreement to nasopharyngeal temperature were similar at tympanic, temporal and axillary sites. Tympanic and temporal temperatures were superior to axillary temperatures for detection of mild hypothermia (<36°C). Skin temperature showed a large variation from nasopharyngeal measurements. Our findings indicate that measured temperatures vary between sites. Understanding these variations is important for interpreting temperature readings.

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