Keeping the operating room chilly for the comfort of the surgeons raises the patient’s risk of infection dramatically and slows healing, a study found. The simple, highly effective solution: blankets.
Typically, operating rooms are kept around 65 degrees so heavily gowned surgeons won’t sweat under the bright lights. Making matters worse, anesthesia interferes with the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature. As a result, patients often cool down during surgery to around 94.5 degrees.
Doctors concerned about this set out to see what would happen if they kept patients around a normal 98 degrees during surgery. They heated up their intravenous fluids and covered them with air-warmed blankets.
The extra attention cost $30, and the benefits were substantial. Patients having colon operations suffered only one-third the usual surgical wound infections. They healed faster and were sent home sooner.