as a cosmetic plastic surgeon am particularly sensitive to, as I do not have a tolerance for complications! Many patients also have intense shivering as they wake up—this is actually due to the side effects of anesthesia and not to decreased temperature! Children and older patients undergoing surgery are at an increased risk of heat loss due to having less fat on their bodies.
There is an increasing body of studies from reputable plastic surgeons regarding the importance of keeping the body warm during cosmetic surgery.
Ways to keep warm during surgery
There are a number of techniques to prevent heat loss from the patient. Body warmers (“bear huggers”) that blow warm air over the patient during surgery can be placed over your chest or over your legs, depending on where the surgery is being performed. There are several settings that can increase the temperature of the air being circulated based on the core temperature, which is monitored by the anesthesiologist during the surgery. Another effective and low-tech method of preventing hypothermia during surgery is covering the patient’s head and body with blankets and hats. After all, we all use this technique on cold winter days. Other obvious but sometimes overlooked methods are keeping the temperature in the room warm and, in extreme cases, where warming is a life-saving procedure, warming intravenous fluids that go into the patient.
Plastic surgery patients in particular are at great risk for hypothermia. In many cosmetic procedures, many areas of the body are exposed to the air, resulting in loss of body heat. In an abdominoplasty, or breast augmentation, for example, the whole torso and thighs may be bare. In liposuction, sometimes you are totally bare!
Risks of hypothermia in surgery
Several medical studies have shown that loss of heat has been associated with a doubled increase in the risk of infection, increased recovery time from anesthesia, decreased rate of healing, increase in wound healing complications and just basic being uncomfortable! We also know that decreased body temperature results in a slower rate of blood clotting, something that I
The latest plastic surgery research shows that you should start the heating process even while the patient is waiting to go to the operating room; that pre-heating affords you a greater degree of protection from heat loss. So bundle up before surgery!