Body temperature in anaesthetised HEMS patients

This study raises an important issue – how do we keep patients with major trauma warm on the way to hospital? The authors from HEMS London identified mean temperatures in hospital of 35°C in patients who had been anaesthetised in the field, although only 38% of their patients had a temperature recorded on admission!

I emailed the author Audun Langhelle for practical information on the thermal protection package they use, who was most helpful in supplying the following information. Clicking on the link will take you to online supplements to the paper describing and illustrating their technique of prehospital rewarming.

Hi Cliff,

Thank you for your request and interest in our paper. Now fully repatriated to Norway, we’re currently using the medium sized UniqueResc warming blanket (Geratherm, Germany) at my base, together with the bubble wrap. In Norway, Garatherm is the only company which has been able to provide us with the necessary paper work showing that their product complies with the rather strict pan European rules and regulations, the EN 13718-1: Requirements for medical devices used in air ambulances in particular.
Working as HEMS doc with LAA 2008-2009, we played with and introduced the policy using Diemme’s (Italy)DM EMG >>, but I’m not sure what blanket they currently use.

Kind regards,


We reviewed this article in one of our Sydney HEMS Clinical Governance Days last year. One of our team presented a critical appraisal and if you’re interested the deadly PowerPoint slides are here:

Background Hypothermia at hospital admission has been found to independently predict increased mortality in trauma patients.

Objectives To establish if patients anaesthetised in the prehospital phase of care had a higher rate of hypothermia than non-anaesthetised patients on admission to hospital.

Methods Retrospective review of admission body temperature in 1292 consecutive prehospital trauma patients attended by a physician-led prehospital trauma service admitted to The Royal London Hospital between 1 July 2005 and 31 December 2008.

Results 38% had a temperature recorded on admission. There was a significant difference in body temperature between the anaesthetised group (N=207) and the non-anaesthetised group (N=287): mean (SD) 35.0 (2.1) vs 36.2 (1.0)°C, respectively (p <0.001). No significant seasonal body temperature variation was demonstrated.

Conclusion This study confirmed that patients anaesthetised in the prehospital phase of care had a significantly lower admission body temperature. This has led to a change in the author’s prehospital practice. Anaesthetised patients are now actively surface heated and have whole body insulation to prevent further heat loss in an attempt to conserve body temperature and improve outcome. This is an example of best in-hospital anaesthetic practice being carried out in the prehospital phase.

Body temperature of trauma patients on admission to hospital: a comparison of anaesthetised and non-anaesthetised patients
Emerg Med J. 2012 Mar;29(3):239-42
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