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Understanding Body Temperature Changes after Total Hip Replacement Surgery

Posted on: 07/31/2003
Everyone runs a high temperature after a surgery. It is part of the body's normal healing response. But infections after surgery can also cause a high temperature. The temperature caused by infection is not normal. It is the signal that the infection needs to be treated.

In the case of total joint replacement surgeries, infections after the surgery are very serious. Doctors must watch any high temperature closely and run lots of tests to be sure there is no infection. It would be very useful for doctors to know what body temperatures are normal for patients who have had joint replacement surgery.

These authors have taken a step toward understanding the way body temperature fluctuates after joint replacement. They studied the records of 88 patients who had a total hip replacement (THR) without any major problems. Temperatures were taken the old-fashioned way, using mercury thermometers under the tongue, because it is considered the most accurate method.

Results showed the expected changes in body temperature over five days after THR surgery. Body temperature actually dropped to an average of 97 degrees F right after surgery; some patients' temperatures dropped much lower still. This is a known response to anesthesia. Soon after surgery, body temperatures climbed. The highest temperatures were recorded on the day after surgery. Most THR patients ran a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees F in the first five days after surgery, with some patients showing significantly higher temperatures.

This is baseline information. More study is needed to find ways to tell the difference between a high temperature caused by surgery and a high temperature caused by infection. The authors say that the next step would be to look at the temperatures of patients who had complications after THR.

P. C. Summersell, MBBS BSc(Med), et al. Temperature Trends in Total Hip Arthroplasty: A Retrospective Study. In The Journal of Arthroplasty. June 2003. Vol. 18. No. 4. Pp. 426-429.

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