Sep 28, 2015

Forced-Air Warming Basics

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All surgeries carry the risk of surgical site infections. Likewise, during surgery, general or regional anesthesia causes a decrease in body temperature for most patients, regardless of age, gender and other factors. If not prevented or quickly addressed, this temperature drop can result in unintended hypothermia, which increases the chances of surgical complications1 and patient discomfort after surgery.

To combat this problem, hospitals and surgical centers often use perioperative warming technology to warm the patient, assisting in the maintenance of normal body temperature throughout the surgical journey.

Forced-air warming is the leading method of perioperative warming utilized by hospitals and surgical centers in the United States due to its low cost, effectiveness and safety. This surgical warming method is the most frequently studied, resulting in a great deal of clinical evidence demonstrating the benefits of forced-air warming. In fact, studies have shown that forced-air warming can reduce costs, improve patient outcomes and increase patients’ level of comfort2, 3, 4.

Forced-air warming has been shown to be the most effective when used throughout the entire perioperative process. Clinicians should keep in mind that not all forced-air warming systems offer the same benefits, so features should be compared before a purchase is made. For example, while some systems offer blanket styles with drainage holes for preventing the pooling of fluids under the patient in the OR, others do not. Likewise, some systems optimize airflow through air channels, while others do not. When choosing a forced-air warming system, clinicians should opt for the system that offers the most useful benefits for an affordable price.

Study Summary: Target Normothermia: A Global Focus on Inadvertent Hypothermia


  1. Kurz A, Sessler DI, Lenhardt R. Perioperative normothermia to reduce the incidence of surgical-wound infection and shorten hospitalization. N Engl J Med 1996; 334: 1209–1215.
  2. Mahoney, CB. Odom, J. Maintaining intraoperative normothermia: A meta-analysis of outcomes with costs. AANA Journal. 1999; 67(2): 155-164.
  3. Van Duren, A. Patient warming plays a significant role in patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes. Infection Control Today. 2008; 12(6): 1-4.
  4. Wasfie TJ, Barber KR. Value of Extended Warming in Patients Undergoing Elective Surgery. Int Surg. 2015; 100: 105-108.


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