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SCIENCE FILE | Science in Brief

Warming Patients During Surgery Reduces Infection Rate

May 09, 1996|Times staff and wire reports

Keeping the body warmed to its normal temperature during surgery can cut the risk of infection by two-thirds, researchers from UC San Francisco and the University of Vienna report in the May 9 New England Journal of Medicine. In a study of 200 people undergoing colorectal surgery, they found that infection rates dropped from 19% to 6% if they used special techniques to warm the body during surgery.

During an operation, the temperature around the wound typically drops because operating rooms are usually kept cool and the anesthesia can disrupt the body's temperature control mechanisms. The result can be a drop of 3 or 4 degrees at the surgical site, enough to limit the amount of blood and oxygen going to tissues, restrain the immune system and give bacteria a chance to get a foothold in the wound.

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