Warming Cabinets

October 21, 2020 | Health System Risk Management


Warming cabinets are used to heat blankets and solutions (e.g., surgical irrigation solutions, intravenous infusion solutions) for patient comfort. Warmed blankets are often placed on patients to make them feel more comfortable in cool ambient temperatures or when sedation or anesthesia has disturbed the body’s thermal regulation. Warmed solutions are used to prevent hypothermia caused by infusion of lower-temperature liquids into a patient’s body. Warmed intravenous bags are also sometimes used as positioning aids during surgery or as “hot water bottles” to provide local heat. (As used in this Guidance Article, solution does not apply to blood or to fluid used for amniofusion during labor. Solution-warming cabinets are not appropriate for these types of fluids.)

ECRI Institute previously recommended a temperature limit of 110°F (43°C) for both blanket- and solution-warming cabinets because solutions were often warmed in the same cabinets as blankets. Because solutions contain more heat than blankets when both are heated to the same temperature and thus present a greater burn risk, the lower temperature limit eliminated the serious burn risk by excessively heated solutions. With increasing recognition in the healthcare community that solutions should be kept at lower temperatures than (and therefore heated separately from) blankets, ECRI Institute has changed its recommendation accordingly. ECRI Institute recommends that temperature settings on blanket-warming cabinets be limited to 130°F (54°C) and continues to recommend that solution-warming cabinets be limited to 110°F.

Warming cabinet users who set blankets and solutions to high temperatures risk patient injury. This Guidance Article describes the risks of burns and injuries due to unsafe temperatures of warming cabinets and strategies to reduce such risks. ECRI Institute’s recommendations for temperature limits of 130°F for blanket warmers and 110°F for solution warmers are also discussed. Temperatures above this level unnecessarily increase the risk...

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