Culture and diversity

April 2010

Research

A comparative study on the accuracy of noninvasive thermometers

Volume 39, No.4, April 2010 Pages 237-239

Fadzlin Mohd Fadzil

David Choon

Kulenthran Arumugam

Background

This study assessed the concordance of the temperatures of the digital, liquid crystal forehead and digital infrared tympanic thermometers with the mercury in glass thermometer.

Methods

Temperatures in degrees celsius were taken simultaneously using the four thermometers in 207 patients at the casualty department of a Malaysian hospital. The Bland Altman statistical test was used to assess the concordance by the 95% limits of agreement between the three newer thermometers and the mercury in glass thermometer.

Results

The digital thermometer gave the best concordance (limits of agreement 0.48–0.59°C). The liquid crystal forehead thermometer gave the least concordance (limits of agreement -1.14–0.98°C). The digital infrared tympanic was in between (limits of agreement -0.88–0.85°C).

Discussion

The digital thermometer provides the best agreement with the mercury in glass thermometer. The infrared tympanic thermometer may be a preferable option for the uncooperative patient. The liquid crystal forehead thermometer is best used at home.

Temperature is one of the most common and important clinical signs. The ‘gold standard’ for ambulatory patient temperature recording has been the mercury in glass thermometers (generally used orally or rarely, under the armpit or rectally) but these pose some problems. Patient cooperation is important when using the mercury in glass thermometers and their use may not be suitable for the comatose or uncooperative patient as a stabilisation time of 3 minutes is needed. In addition, breakages are a constant problem and there are concerns about the environmental hazards of mercury. Newer methods have evolved with the hope of replacing these thermometers.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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