A comparison of mercury and digital clinical thermometers

J Adv Nurs. 1986 Sep;11(5):535-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1986.tb01285.x.


A primarily clinical trial has been undertaken to investigate and compare the use of mercury and digital thermometers in a ward situation. Both laboratory and clinical studies show that there is no significant difference in the average accuracy of the two types of thermometers, however there is a greater fluctuation of readings of temperature when using electronic thermometers. In clinical studies between 9 and 23% of repeated measurements using an electronic thermometer differ by 0.5 degrees C or more whilst the corresponding range for mercury thermometers is 0.6%. It is also shown that when making clinical measurements with mercury thermometers there is no clinical advantage in using a measurement time longer than 3 minutes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature
  • Electronics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Mercury
  • Thermometers / standards*
  • Time Factors


  • Mercury