Background Recent research indicates that oral measurement of body temperature is a reliable option in orally intubated patients. In situations such as protective isolation, where dedicated electronic thermometers are not available, are single-use chemical dot thermometers an acceptable alternative?

Objective To determine the accuracy of single-use chemical dot thermometers in orally intubated adult patients.

Methods Subjects included a convenience sample of 85 adult patients admitted to 1 of 2 intensive care units (surgical trauma and neuroscience). For each patient, oral temperatures were measured concurrently (within 5 minutes) with a chemical dot thermometer and an electronic thermometer. The sequence of temperature measurements was alternated with each subsequent patient. Both thermometers were placed in the same posterior sublingual pocket opposite the side of the endotracheal tube.

Results Measurements obtained with electronic and single-use chemical dot thermometers correlated strongly (r = 0.937). With the chemical dot thermometer, body temperature was overestimated in 11.8% of the measurements and underestimated in 10.8% of the measurements by 0.4°C or more. The difference between oral temperatures measured with the 2 different thermometers was not related to the patient’s age, sex, or sublingual pocket location or to the order of thermometer use.

Conclusion The chemical dot thermometer is useful and reliable for measuring body temperature of orally intubated patients. When measurements of body temperature have important consequences for decisions about treatment, clinicians should use an electronic thermometer to confirm measurements made with a chemical dot thermometer.

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