Application of infrared thermography in the early warning of pressure injury: A prospective observational study

J Clin Nurs. 2021 Feb;30(3-4):559-571. doi: 10.1111/jocn.15576. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


Aims and objectives: To verify the ability of infrared thermography in objectively identifying pressure injury and its application value in the early warning of pressure injury.

Background: There is subjectivity in assessing the risk of pressure injury as well as diagnosis in clinical settings, which makes early detection and prevention difficult.

Design: Prospective, cohort study.

Method: Four hundred and fifteen patients admitted to the adult intensive care units were enrolled by a convenience sampling method, and they received a follow-up monitoring for 10 days. The risk of pressure injury was assessed via Braden scale, and thermal images of sacral area were obtained by infrared thermal imager once a day. The predictive effects of infrared thermography and Braden scale on pressure injury were compared by the receiver operating characteristic curve from which the optimal cut-off value of skin temperature for predicting pressure injury was determined. The effect of skin temperature on pressure injury was described and compared, using Kaplan-Meier curve and Cox proportional hazard regression model, respectively. We followed STROBE checklist for reporting the study.

Results: The relative temperature of sacral area was negatively correlated with the risk of pressure injury. The efficiency of infrared thermography for diagnosing pressure injury was better than that of Braden scale. Based on the relative temperature optimal cut-off value (-0.1°C), Kaplan-Meier curve and Cox proportional hazard regression model analysis showed the incidence of pressure injury with relative temperature below -0.1°C was higher than the group with relative temperature above -0.1°C.

Conclusions: Infrared thermography can objectively and accurately identify local hypothermia warnings of pressure injury before visual recognition. The application of infrared thermography into routine pressure injury risk assessment provides a timely and reliable method for nursing practitioners.

Relevance to clinical practice: Infrared thermography has great value of clinical application in daily pressure injury assessment. It is of great significance to make a faster and more objective clinical judgement for patients at risk of pressure injury.

Keywords: Braden scale; infrared thermography; pressure injury; skin temperature; thermal image.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pressure Ulcer / diagnosis*
  • Pressure Ulcer / nursing
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin Temperature
  • Thermography*