Findings of a new study are suggesting that for getting the most accurate body temperature measurement one should use a rectal thermometer. According to the said study, less invasive procedures of measuring body heat, for instance, those involving the use of peripheral thermometers or thermometers that can be used under the arms and orally, are not as precise.
Does this finding mean that every household must have a rectal thermometer in its medicine cabinet? Peter Lougheed Center, Calgary’s intensive care physician Dr. Daniel Niven feels there’s no such need. Niven, who was the leader of the review team that analyzed the efficacy of thermometers of different types, said that ear thermometer and oral thermometer are also reasonably accurate.
Niven and his team analyzed data collected from a total of 75 studies conducted in different parts of the globe and involving over 8,600 patients (both children and adults). They carried out the study with the aim of finding out the similarities and dissimilarities between thermometers of various kinds. The researchers checked measurements were taken in the patients’ ear, mouth, armpit, as well as on their forehead (taken using peripheral thermometers).
Those measurements were then compared to each other as well as to measurements taken by more invasive instruments called central thermometers, which include units that are placed inside the patients’ bladder (used primarily for measuring the body temperature of hospitalized patients with catheters) or rectum.
The results, which were published in Monday’s edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggested that the peripheral thermometers can offer results that differ from the exact results by almost 1.5 degrees.
Niven said that the more invasive the method is, the more accurate is the result produced by it. He added that the invasive methods of body temperature measurements allow doctors to diagnose health problems in patients without any obvious symptom. This is extremely important because if temperature readings turn out to be normal when they are actually not, serious infections can go undetected. Niven said that this is particularly critical in intensive care units at hospitals.
Even today a number of ICUs rely just on armpit measurements and not on the bladder or rectal measures. Niven is hopeful that the findings of this new study will make hospitals understand the importance of using central thermometers.