Comparison between temporal and rectal temperature measurement

Dan Med J. 2020 Oct 20;67(11):A04200270.


Introduction: Various digital thermometers for non-invasive use have been used increasingly in Danish hospitals, including the temporal artery thermometer (TAT). However, previous studies have concluded that the accuracy of the TAT is unsatisfying for paediatric, surgical, cancer and intensive care patients. The purpose of this study was to compare the accuracy of the TAT with that of a conventional rectal thermometer (REC) within acutely admitted medical patients at an emergency department.

Methods: This was a prospective, comparative study. For two months, 381 patients were included. At a maximum interval of seven minutes, the temperature was measured first with a temporal artery thermometer and then with an REC. The measurements were analysed in a Bland-Altman plot, and the sensitivity and specificity of the TAT were calculated.

Results: The differences between the TAT and the REC ranged from -1.7 °C to 1.7 °C. The mean of the difference was drawn in the Bland-Altman plot through 0.17 with a standard deviation of ± 0.47. The sensitivity and specificity were calculated to 67% and 96%, respectively.

Conclusions: Based on this study, we do not recommend the use of the TAT as an alternative to an REC for non-invasive measuring of the body temperature in acutely admitted medical patients.

Funding: All authors received honoraria from The Capital Region of Denmark.

Trial registration: Study procedures were approved by the local ethical committee and submitted to (NCT01817881).

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rectum
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Temperature
  • Temporal Arteries
  • Thermometers*

Associated data