Re-evaluation of the tympanic thermometer in the emergency department

Ann Emerg Med. 1992 Feb;21(2):158-61. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)80151-9.


Study objective: A study was undertaken to re-evaluate tympanic temperatures using a commonly used portable infrared tympanic thermometer.

Design: Temperatures were recorded sequentially at two body sites using an electronic digital thermometer and an infrared tympanic thermometer. The tympanic thermometer was set to the core equivalency setting.

Setting: The emergency department of a Level 2 trauma center.

Type of participants: Seventy-nine pediatric patients presenting to the ED.

Measurements and main results: Mean temperatures in the tympanic and rectal temperature groups were 38.5 +/- 1.08 C and 38.8 +/- 1.02 C, respectively (P greater than .05). The overall correlation of rectal and tympanic temperatures was 0.93 (P much less than .001). Stratifying the data by age resulted in a weakened correlation for patients 3 months of age and younger. For all strata, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of the tympanic thermometer for predicting fever were 96.6%, 100%, 100%, and 90.1%, respectively; for patients more than 3 months of age, the values were 100% in all categories.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that the First Temp infrared tympanic thermometer accurately detected fever in a pediatric population more than 3 months old. Results were inconclusive in patients less than 3 months old.

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Fever / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Rectum
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thermometers*
  • Tympanic Membrane*