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Abstract

Temperature management within the perioperative environment is an imperative component of and a standard of practice in providing effective patient safety and comfort. This literature review will explore the evidence surrounding the use of active and passive warming mechanisms in the prevention of postoperative hypothermia. Many studies have recognised the adverse consequences of inadvertent postoperative hypothermia, hence the rapid advancement in education about and use of equipment and devices for its prevention. Evidence-based literature was reviewed to provide rationales and recommendations for strategies to prevent postoperative hypothermia. This literature review will potentially guide clinicians through the use of effective devices to allow for informed choices to provide appropriate patient care.

Inadvertent postoperative hypothermia (IPH) is defined as a core body temperature lower than 36˚ C. IPH usually occurs in response to general or regional anaesthesia and transpires due to the vasoconstriction mechanism responsible for maintaining temperature becoming inhibited on administration of anaesthetic agents. Not only is anaesthesia responsible for a 20 per cent reduction in metabolic heat production but also environmental factors such as the cold operating theatre, body exposure and lack of prewarming for flushing solutions affect the incidence of IPH1. Some authors have reported that the incidence of postoperative hypothermia morbidity can be as high as 50 to 90 per cent2–4. Perioperative nurses have a primary role in caring for and monitoring patients within the Post Anaesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and it is imperative that they gain increased knowledge of and understanding about the management of IPH to improve patient outcomes.

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