Background: Infants and children cool quickly because their surface area (and therefore heat loss) is large compared with their metabolic rate, which is mostly a function of body mass. Rewarming rate is a function of cutaneous heat transfer plus metabolic heat production divided by body mass. Therefore, the authors tested the hypothesis that the rate of forced-air rewarming is inversely related to body size.
Methods: Isoflurane, nitrous oxide, and fentanyl anesthesia were administered to infants, children, and adults scheduled to undergo hypothermic neurosurgery. All fluids were warmed to 37 degrees C and ambient temperature was maintained near 21 degrees C. Patients were covered with a full-body, forced-air cover of the appropriate size. The heater was set to low or ambient temperature to reduce core temperature to 34 degrees C in time for dural opening. Blower temperature was then adjusted to maintain core temperature at 34 degrees C for 1 h. Subsequently, the forced-air heater temperature was set to high (approximately 43 degrees C). Rewarming continued for the duration of surgery and postoperatively until core temperature exceeded 36.5 degrees C. The rewarming rate in individual patients was determined by linear regression.
Results: Rewarming rates were highly linear over time, with correlations coefficients (r2) averaging 0.98+/-0.02. There was a linear relation between rewarming rate (degrees C/h) and body surface area (BSA; m2): Rate (degrees C/h) = -0.59 x BSA (m2) + 1.9, r2 = 0.74. Halving BSA thus nearly doubled the rewarming rate.
Conclusions: Infants and children rewarm two to three times faster than adults, thus rapidly recovering from accidental or therapeutic hypothermia.