Effectiveness of resistive heating compared with passive warming in treating hypothermia associated with minor trauma: a randomized trial

Mayo Clin Proc. 2001 Apr;76(4):369-75. doi: 10.4065/76.4.369.


Objectives: To determine the occurrence of hypothermia in patients with minor trauma, to test the hypotheses that resistive heating during transport is effective treatment for hypothermia and that this treatment reduces patients' thermal discomfort, pain, and fear, and to evaluate the accuracy of oral temperatures obtained at the scene of injury.

Patients and methods: In December 1999 and January 2000, 100 patients with minor trauma were randomly assigned to passive warming or resistive heating. All patients were covered with a carbon-fiber resistive warming blanket and a wool blanket, but the warming blanket was activated only in those assigned to resistive heating. Core (tympanic membrane) and oral temperatures, heart rate, pain, fear, and overall satisfaction of patients were compared between the 2 groups on arrival at a hospital.

Results: Hypothermia was noted in 80 patients at the time of rescue. Mean initial core temperatures were 35.4 degrees C (95% confidence interval [CI], 35.2 degrees C - 35.6 degrees C) in the patients who received passive warming and 35.3 degrees C (95% CI, 35.1 degrees C - 35.5 degrees C) in those who received resistive heating. From the time of rescue until arrival at the hospital, mean core temperature decreased 0.4 degrees C/h (95% CI, 0.3 degrees C/h - 0.5 degrees C/h) with passive warming, whereas it increased 0.8 degrees C/h (95% CI, 0.7 degrees C/h - 0.9 degrees C/h) with resistive heating. Oral and tympanic membrane temperatures were similar. Mean heart rate decreased 23 beats/min in those assigned to resistive heating but remained unchanged in those assigned to passive warming. Patients in the resistive heating group felt warmer, had less pain and anxiety, and overall were more satisfied with their care.

Conclusions: Oral temperatures are sufficiently accurate for field use. Hypothermia is common even in persons with minor trauma. Resistive heating during transport augments thermal comfort, increases core temperature, reduces pain and anxiety, and improves overall patient satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Temperature
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods*
  • Hypothermia / diagnosis
  • Hypothermia / etiology
  • Hypothermia / therapy*
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Probability
  • Temperature*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis