Warming of intravenous and irrigation fluids for preventing inadvertent perioperative hypothermia

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Apr 13;2015(4):CD009891. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009891.pub2.


Background: Inadvertent perioperative hypothermia (a drop in core temperature to below 36°C) occurs because of interference with normal temperature regulation by anaesthetic drugs, exposure of skin for prolonged periods and receipt of large volumes of intravenous and irrigation fluids. If the temperature of these fluids is below core body temperature, they can cause significant heat loss. Warming intravenous and irrigation fluids to core body temperature or above might prevent some of this heat loss and subsequent hypothermia.

Objectives: To estimate the effectiveness of preoperative or intraoperative warming, or both, of intravenous and irrigation fluids in preventing perioperative hypothermia and its complications during surgery in adults.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (2014, Issue 2), MEDLINE Ovid SP (1956 to 4 February 2014), EMBASE Ovid SP (1982 to 4 February 2014), the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Web of Science (1950 to 4 February 2014), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) EBSCOhost (1980 to 4 February 2014) and reference lists of identified articles. We also searched the Current Controlled Trials website and ClinicalTrials.gov.

Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials or quasi-randomized controlled trials comparing fluid warming methods versus standard care or versus other warming methods used to maintain normothermia.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently extracted data from eligible trials and settled disputes with a third review author. We contacted study authors to ask for additional details when needed. We collected data on adverse events only if they were reported in the trials.

Main results: We included in this review 24 studies with a total of 1250 participants. The trials included various numbers and types of participants. Investigators used a range of methods to warm fluids to temperatures between 37°C and 41°C. We found that evidence was of moderate quality because descriptions of trial design were often unclear, resulting in high or unclear risk of bias due to inappropriate or unclear randomization and blinding procedures. These factors may have influenced results in some way. Our protocol specified the risk of hypothermia as the primary outcome; as no trials reported this, we decided to include data related to mean core temperature. The only secondary outcome reported in the trials that provided useable data was shivering. Evidence was unclear regarding the effects of fluid warming on bleeding. No data were reported on our other specified outcomes of cardiovascular complications, infection, pressure ulcers, bleeding, mortality, length of stay, unplanned intensive care admission and adverse events.Researchers found that warmed intravenous fluids kept the core temperature of study participants about half a degree warmer than that of participants given room temperature intravenous fluids at 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes, and at the end of surgery. Warmed intravenous fluids also further reduced the risk of shivering compared with room temperature intravenous fluidsInvestigators reported no statistically significant differences in core body temperature or shivering between individuals given warmed and room temperature irrigation fluids.

Authors' conclusions: Warm intravenous fluids appear to keep patients warmer during surgery than room temperature fluids. It is unclear whether the actual differences in temperature are clinically meaningful, or if other benefits or harms are associated with the use of warmed fluids. It is also unclear if using fluid warming in addition to other warming methods confers any benefit, as a ceiling effect is likely when multiple methods of warming are used.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravenous
  • Anesthesia / adverse effects
  • Body Temperature*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / etiology
  • Hypothermia / prevention & control*
  • Infusions, Intravenous / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Shivering
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods*