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What is perioperative hypothermia?

What is perioperative hypothermia?

The perioperative period is the time surrounding a patient's surgical procedure; this includes the period before surgery on the ward (or in the accident and emergency department), as well as during the operation and afterwards. Hypothermia means an abnormally low body temperature; that is, a 'core' temperature below 36°C. Your core temperature is the temperature of your organs, such as your heart and liver, and it is normally slightly higher than at the places where your temperature is usually taken, such as your mouth or ear. For some operations, a person's temperature may be deliberately lowered for medical reasons (known as therapeutic hypothermia). However, if perioperative hypothermia occurs unintentionally, it may cause:

  • increased blood loss and a greater risk that you will need a blood transfusion

  • a higher chance of wound infection

  • a greater chance of heart problems

  • an increased risk of bedsores

  • a longer recovery period after the operation, which may mean that you need to stay in hospital for longer.