Differences in noninvasive thermometer measurements in the adult emergency department.

Research paper by Ryan P RP Bodkin, Nicole M NM Acquisto, Joshua M JM Zwart, Sean P SP Toussaint

Indexed on: 09 Jul '14Published on: 09 Jul '14Published in: American Journal of Emergency Medicine


Detection of accurate temperature in the emergency department (ED) is integral for assessment, treatment, and disposition. The primary objective was to compare temperature measurements from noninvasive temperature devices in the adult ED. The secondary objective was to evaluate the discrepancy between febrile and afebrile patients.This was a prospective observational study of adult patients presenting to the ED. Patients who required a temperature measurement based on standard of care were included. Data collection included oral and temporal artery (TA) temperature measurement taken consecutively. Data were evaluated using the paired Student's t test.A total of 100 patients were identified. Mean oral temperature was 37.51°C (SD ±1.25), and mean TA temperature was 37.03°C (SD ±0.94). The mean difference was 0.48°C (SD ±0.8), P < .0001. Overall, 49% of patients had a difference in temperature measurements greater than or equal to 0.5°C. There were 47 febrile patients, determined by a measurement greater than 38°C on oral or TA thermometer. The mean temperature difference in these patients was 0.87°C (SD ±0.85) compared with a mean temperature difference of 0.12°C (SD ±0.55) in the afebrile patients, P < .0001. A total of 57% of fevers recorded by the oral thermometer were not recorded by the TA thermometer.There was a statistically significant difference in measured temperatures between oral and TA thermometers and a clinically significant difference in 49% of patients. Febrile patients had a greater discrepancy and variability between noninvasive temperature measurements. Caution should be taken when evaluating temperature measurements with these noninvasive devices.