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The Bair Hugger patient warming system in prolonged surgery

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Introduction

The Bair Hugger patient warming system is widely used and the advantages of avoiding hypothermia for patients undergoing surgical procedures are well established; however, prolonged exposure to the exhaust of the warming blanket may force the patients' skin organisms into the theatre atmosphere, and then into the surgical field and more importantly, onto prosthetic material such as vascular grafts, increasing the risk of devastating infection. This danger had not been previously studied.

Methods

Sixteen patients undergoing aortic surgery with graft insertion were studied. Air and wound specimens were taken from seven separate sites using standard methods with the centrifugal air sampler and agar touch plates. Two readings were taken from each site - one when the warming blanket was first applied at the start of the operation, and again at the end of the operation.

Results

The mean duration of surgery and use of the warming blanket was 234 min (180–270 min). Operating theatre air showed a significant decrease in colony counts at the end of surgery. The exhaust air colony counts remained similar. All wound specimens were sterile. None of the patients had postoperative wound-related infections.

Conclusions

The use of the Bair Hugger patient warming system during prolonged surgery does not lead to increased contamination of the surgical field nor increase the risk of wound and graft infection.

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Huang, J., Shah, E., Vinodkumar, N. et al. The Bair Hugger patient warming system in prolonged surgery. Crit Care 4, P202 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1186/cc921

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Keywords

  • Vascular Graft
  • Colony Count
  • Prosthetic Material
  • Graft Infection
  • Warming Blanket