Influence of low ambient temperature on epitympanic temperature measurement: A prospective randomized clinical study

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Background: Epitympanic temperature (Tty) measured with thermistor probes correlates with core body temperature (Tcore), but the reliability of measurements at low ambient temperature is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine if commercially-available thermistor-based Tty reflects Tcore in low ambient temperature and if Tty is influenced by insulation of the ear. Methods: Thirty-one participants (two females) were exposed to room (23.2 ± 0.4 °C) and low (-18.7 ± 1.0 °C) ambient temperature for 10 min using a randomized cross-over design. Tty was measured using an epitympanic probe (M1024233, GE Healthcare Finland Oy) and oesophageal temperature (Tes) with an oesophageal probe (M1024229, GE Healthcare Finland Oy) inserted into the lower third of the oesophagus. Ten participants wore ear protectors (Arton 2200, Emil Lux GmbH & Co. KG, Wermelskirchen, Switzerland) to insulate the ear from ambient air. Results: During exposure to room temperature, mean Tty increased from 33.4 ± 1.5 to 34.2 ± 0.8 °C without insulation of the ear and from 35.0 ± 0.8 to 35.5 ± 0.7 °C with insulation. During exposure to low ambient temperature, mean Tty decreased from 32.4 ± 1.6 to 28.5 ± 2.0 °C without insulation and from 35.6 ± 0.6 to 35.2 ± 0.9 °C with insulation. The difference between Tty and Tes at low ambient temperature was reduced by 82 % (from 7.2 to 1.3 °C) with insulation of the ear. Conclusions: Epitympanic temperature measurements are influenced by ambient temperature and deviate from Tes at room and low ambient temperature. Insulating the ear with ear protectors markedly reduced the difference between Tty and Tes and improved the stability of measurements. The use of models to correct Tty may be possible, but results should be validated in larger studies.




Strapazzon, G., Procter, E., Putzer, G., Avancini, G., Dal Cappello, T., Überbacher, N., … Brugger, H. (2015). Influence of low ambient temperature on epitympanic temperature measurement: A prospective randomized clinical study. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, 23(1).

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