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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Behind the Curtain

Daniel Sessler, M.D.

Daniel Sessler, M.D.,
Cleveland Clinic, Ohio
Photo courtesy of NIGMS

Keeping Surgical Patients Warmer Fights Infection

As recently as the mid-1990s, doctors thought it was perfectly normal that body temperature went down during surgery. Operating rooms were cold, and the operations themselves increased heat loss. What's more, anesthetic medicines impair the body's ability to control its temperature and sometimes produce hypothermia.

Challenging conventional wisdom, anesthesiologist Dan Sessler found that just a few degrees of body cooling tripled the risk of surgical wound infection. His research led to a new conclusion: Keep surgical patients warm.

No new drugs, no fancy technology. Warming patients during an operation can be as simple as blowing heated air through a disposable, quilt-like covering.

Sessler has also discovered that giving surgical patients additional oxygen can lower the risk of wound infections.

Sessler has found simple, risk-free and inexpensive interventions that improve patient health after surgery.

Read More "Building Blocks of Medical Research" Articles
Discovery for Health / Behind the Curtain / Fruit Flies Help Human Sleep Research / NIGMS's Living Labs

Summer 2007 Issue: Volume 2 Number 3 Page 23