Background: Monitoring temperature in critically ill children is an important component of care, yet the accuracy of methods is often questioned. Temperature measured in the pulmonary artery is considered the 'gold standard', but this route is unsuitable for the majority of patients. An accurate, reliable and less invasive method is, however, yet to be established in paediatric intensive care work.
Aim: To determine which site most closely reflects core temperature in babies and children following cardiac surgery, by comparing pulmonary artery temperature to the temperature measured at rectal, bladder, nasopharyngeal, axillary and tympanic sites.
Method: A convenience sample of 19 postoperative cardiac patients was studied.
Interventions: Temperature was recorded as a continuous measurement from pulmonary artery, rectal, nasopharyngeal and bladder sites. Axillary and tympanic temperatures were recorded at 30 minute intervals for 6 1/2 hours postoperatively.
Study limitations: The small sample size of 19 infants and children limits the generalizability of the study.
Results: Repeated measures analysis of variance demonstrated no significant difference between pulmonary artery and bladder temperatures, and pulmonary artery and nasopharyngeal temperatures. Intraclass correlation showed that agreement was greatest between pulmonary artery temperature and temperature measured by bladder catheter. There was a significant difference between pulmonary artery temperature and temperature measured at rectal, tympanic and pulmonary artery and axillary sites. Repeated measures analysis showed a significant lag between pulmonary artery and rectal temperature of between 0 and 150 minutes after the 6-hour measurement period.
Conclusions: In this study, bladder temperature was shown to be the best estimate of pulmonary artery temperature, closely followed by the temperature measured by nasopharyngeal probe. The results support the use of bladder or nasopharyngeal catheters to monitor temperature in critically ill children after cardiac surgery.