Since its inception 25 years ago, forced-air warming technology has grown to become a staple in hospitals around the world, safely warming more than 130 million patients. The amount of scientific evidence behind this technology is overwhelming, with more than 170 published studies documenting the clinical benefits of forced-air warming for maintaining normothermia. Today, the technology from Arizant Healthcare Inc., a 3M Health Care company, is used in more than 80 percent of U.S. hospitals and warms more than 50,000 patients each day.
Before the development of forced-air warming, there was no good way to keep surgical patients warm, says anesthesiologist Dr. Daniel Sessler. Forced-air is safe, effective, easy to use and inexpensive. It has thus become the most common way of keeping patients warm during surgery.
Developed in 1987 as a way to warm patients after surgery, forced-air warming has expanded its reach into the operating room and preoperative environments. 3M Bair Hugger therapy, now a part of the innovative 3M Infection Prevention portfolio of solutions, was the worlds first forced-air warming system and remains the industry leader. While manufacturers continue to develop new warming methods, none seem to match forced-air warmings combination of safety, ease-of-use and effectiveness.
Orthopedic surgeon and leading surgical site infection (SSI) researcher Dr. Javad Parvizi recently authored a paper that substantiates the safety of forced-air warming technology.(2) This research examines existing literature on forced-air warmings use in laminar flow operating rooms and affirms forced-air warming as a safe, effective technology for surgical patients. Another recent study was led by Dr. Sessler, concluding forced-air warming does not disrupt laminar flow or compromise the protection of the surgical site.(3) In its 25 year history, there has never been a report of an SSI linked to the use of forced-air warming.
Im confident in the use of forced-air warming blankets at my institution for patients undergoing total joint arthroplasty in laminar flow equipped ORs, says Parvizi. Normothermia maintenance plays a critical role in minimizing complications following any surgery and should be exercised whenever possible.
High-quality randomized trials show that maintaining normothermia:(1)
- Reduces surgical bleeding and the need for blood products
- Reduces the risk of surgical wound infection
- Decreases the risk of postoperative myocardial infarction
- Shortens postoperative recovery and the duration of hospitalization
- Improves patient comfort
Quality initiatives, including the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP), and professional organizations such as the Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and the American Society of Peri-Anesthesia Nurses (ASPAN), all note the important role of normothermia maintenance and several specifically mention forced-air technology as a key means of warming.
1 Mahoney, CB. Odom, J. Maintaining intraoperative normothermia: A meta-analysis of outcomes with costs. AANA Journal. 67(2): 155-164. 1999.
2 Parvizi, J. Karam, J. Do Forced-Air Warming Blankets Increase Surgical Site Infections? 2012.*
3 Sessler DI, Olmsted RN, Kuelpmann R. Forced-Air Warming Does Not Worsen Air Quality in Laminar Flow Operating Rooms. Anesth Analg.113 (6): 1416-1421. 2011.*