Methods: In this unblinded three-by-two factorial trial, 292 adults were randomized to ambient temperatures 19°, 21°, or 23°C, and to passive insulation or forced-air warming. The primary outcome was core temperature change between 1 and 3 h after induction. Linear mixed-effects models assessed the effects of ambient temperature, warming method, and their interaction.
Results: A 1°C increase in ambient temperature attenuated the negative slope of core temperature change 1 to 3 h after anesthesia induction by 0.03 (98.3% CI, 0.01 to 0.06) °Ccore/(h.°Cambient) (P < 0.001), for patients who received passive insulation, but not for those warmed with forced-air (–0.01 [98.3% CI, –0.03 to 0.01] °Ccore/[h.°Cambient]; P = 0.40). Final core temperature at the end of surgery increased 0.13°C (98.3% CI, 0.07 to 0.20; P < 0.01) per degree increase in ambient temperature with passive insulation, but was unaffected by ambient temperature during forced-air warming (0.02 [98.3% CI, –0.04 to 0.09] °Ccore/°Cambient; P = 0.40). After an average of 3.4 h of surgery, core temperature was 36.3° ± 0.5°C in each of the forced-air groups, and ranged from 35.6° to 36.1°C in passively insulated patients.
Conclusions: Ambient intraoperative temperature has a negligible effect on core temperature when patients are warmed with forced air. The effect is larger when patients are passively insulated, but the magnitude remains small. Ambient temperature can thus be set to comfortable levels for staff in patients who are actively warmed.