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Temperature measurement in intensive care patients: comparison of urinary bladder, oesophageal, rectal, axillary, and inguinal methods versus pulmonary artery core method



Comparisons of urinary bladder, oesophageal, rectal, axillary, and inguinal temperatures versus pulmonary artery temperature.


Prospective cohort study.


Intensive Care Unit of a University-Hospital.


Forty-two intensive care patients requiring a pulmonary artery catheter (PAC).


Patients requiring PAC and without oesophageal, urinary bladder, and/or rectal disease or recent surgery were included in the study. Temperature was simultaneously monitored with PAC, urinary, oesophageal, and rectal electronic thermometers and with axillary and inguinal gallium-in-glass thermometers. Comparisons used a Bland and Altman method.

Measurements and main results.

The pulmonary arterial temperature ranged from 33.7 °C to 40.2 °C. Urinary bladder temperature was assessed in the last 22 patients. A total of 529 temperature measurement comparisons were carried out (252 comparisons of esophageal, rectal, inguinal, axillary, and pulmonary artery temperature measurements in the first 20 patients, and 277 comparisons with overall methods in the last patients). Nine to 18 temperature measurement comparisons were carried out per patient (median = 13). The mean differences between pulmonary artery temperatures and those of the different methods studied were: oesophageal (0.11±0.30 °C), rectal (−0.07±0.40 °C), axillary (0.27±0.45 °C), inguinal (0.17±0.48 °C), urinary bladder (−0.21±0.20 °C).


In critically ill patients, urinary bladder and oesophageal electronic thermometers are more reliable than the electronic rectal thermometer which is better than inguinal and axillary gallium-in-glass thermometers to measure core temperature.

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The authors very sincerely thank nurses and aid-nurses for their kind and skilled assistance in temperature measurements.

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Correspondence to J.-Y. Lefrant.

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Lefrant, JY., Muller, L., de La Coussaye, J.E. et al. Temperature measurement in intensive care patients: comparison of urinary bladder, oesophageal, rectal, axillary, and inguinal methods versus pulmonary artery core method. Intensive Care Med 29, 414–418 (2003).

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  • Core temperature
  • Measurements
  • Intensive Care