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New study: Warmer surgeries may reduce heart risks


From Correspondent Jeff Levine

BALTIMORE (CNN) -- Keeping patients warmer during surgery may reduce the risk of serious heart complications, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

They found that patients who were covered by a special paper and plastic blanket, through which warm air circulates while surgeons work, were 55 percent less likely to experience serious heart complications than patients who aren't covered.

Powerful anesthetics used during surgery hinder the body's natural thermostat. So, like cold-blooded creatures, patients begin to adapt to the temperature of the environment around them -- and operating rooms usually aren't very warm.


The study's findings are reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Lower temperature, higher risk

"Most surgeons don't like to operate where it's very hot, so I think that sometimes the temperature is, in the room, rather cool for a patient," said Dr. Fray Marshall of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

"When a patient is moderately or severely hypothermic, such as 90 degrees or 85 degrees, then there's always the risk of cardiac arrest," added Dr. Steven Frank. "[Temperature] happens to be the vital sign that has been most ignored over the 100 years since we started monitoring."

The researchers looked at 300 older patients undergoing major surgery. About half received no special treatment in terms of body temperature. The other half were covered by the blanket.

The potential reduction in heart risk comes at a reasonable price. The blanket only costs $15 to $20.


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