Temperature threshold for burn injury: An oximeter safety study

David G Greenhalgh, Mary Beth Lawless, Bradford B. Chew, Willem A. Crone, Michael E. Fein, Tina L Palmieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Pulse oximeters have become essential devices for evaluating and monitoring patient oxygenation. The probe emits a small amount of heat into the skin in the process of signal detection. Regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration currently limit the maximum allowable temperature of an oximeter probe to 41°C. As a result of the prolonged exposure of extremities to these devices, we sought to determine the actual temperature threshold for burn injury in patients. Eighteen patients undergoing surgery for removal of redundant skin (abdominoplasty, breast reduction) consented to the application of a temperature-controlled custom probe with four light-emitting diodes that had temperatures set randomly at the expected threshold for burn injury (42.5°C, 43°C, 43.5°C, and 44°C). The probe was left in place for 8 hours (or less if significant pain was noted). The sites covered by the probes were then checked for signs of injury. On the next day, the redundant skin was removed as a scheduled procedure, and histopathology was performed to detect the extent of burn injury. The study was approved by the local institutional research board. Two patients were excluded because of technical problems with the probe, one of whom had the probe turned off because of pain. The only observed sign of injury was either erythema or a superficial blister that was usually unobservable or slightly red at operation. These subtle signs of a burn were noted in one patient at 43°C, four at 43.5°C, and nine at 44°C. No burns were noted in two patients. Minimal or no signs of injury frequently were noted by histopathology. Pulse oximeter probes are safe up to a temperature of 43°C for at least 8 hours in well-perfused skin. Above that temperature, there is a risk of burn injury. Performing temperature threshold tests in redundant skin that is planned for excision is a potential method for testing the safety of devices or materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-415
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation
Volume25
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2004

Fingerprint

Safety
Temperature
Wounds and Injuries
Skin
Abdominoplasty
Protective Devices
Pain
Equipment and Supplies
Physiologic Monitoring
United States Food and Drug Administration
Erythema
Blister
Burns
Pulse
Breast
Extremities
Hot Temperature
Light
Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery
  • Nursing(all)
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Emergency Medicine

Cite this

Temperature threshold for burn injury : An oximeter safety study. / Greenhalgh, David G; Lawless, Mary Beth; Chew, Bradford B.; Crone, Willem A.; Fein, Michael E.; Palmieri, Tina L.

In: Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation, Vol. 25, No. 5, 09.2004, p. 411-415.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Greenhalgh, David G ; Lawless, Mary Beth ; Chew, Bradford B. ; Crone, Willem A. ; Fein, Michael E. ; Palmieri, Tina L. / Temperature threshold for burn injury : An oximeter safety study. In: Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation. 2004 ; Vol. 25, No. 5. pp. 411-415.
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