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infrared thermometers, wound infection, measuring skin surface temperature



  1. Mufti, Asfandyar BMSc
  2. Coutts, Patricia RN
  3. Sibbald, R. Gary BSc, MD, MEd, FRCPC(Med)(Derm), MACP, FAAD, MAPWCA, DSc(Hons)


OBJECTIVE: Increased local skin temperature is a classic sign of wound infection, repetitive trauma, and deep inflammation. Noncontact infrared thermometers can help to detect increases in skin surface temperatures; however, most scientifically tested devices are far too expensive for everyday wound care providers to use in routine clinical practice. This noninferiority study was conducted in an attempt to determine whether 4 less expensive, commercially available noncontact infrared thermometers have a similar level of accuracy as the scientifically accepted Exergen DermaTemp 1001 (Exergen Products, Watertown, Massachusetts).


DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Using an observational study design, participants with open wounds were randomly selected from a chronic wound clinic (n = 108). Demographic data and wound location were documented for all participants. Skin temperatures were recorded using 5 noncontact infrared thermometers under consistent environmental conditions. The thermometer brands were as follows: Exergen DermaTemp, Mastercool MSC52224-A (Mastercool Inc, Randolph, New Jersey), ATD Tools 70001 Infrared Thermometer (ATD Tools Inc, Wentzville, Missouri), Mastercraft Digital Temperature Reader (Mastercraft Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada), and Pro Point Infrared Thermometer (Princess Auto, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada). Data analysis was based on the skin surface temperature difference ([DELTA]T in degrees Fahrenheit) between the wound site and an equivalent contralateral control site.


OUTCOME MEASURES: One-way analysis of variance was used to compare the mean [DELTA]T values for all the 5 thermometers, followed by post hoc analysis. Demographic data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Interrater reliability was assessed for consistency using the intraclass correlation coefficient.


MAIN RESULTS: No statistical difference was reported between the [DELTA]T values for the 5 different thermometers (F4,514 = 0.339, P = .852). Post hoc analysis showed no significant difference when the thermometers were compared with the Exergen DermaTemp 1001, and Mastercool MSC52224-A (P = .987), ATD Tools 70001 Infrared Thermometer (P = .985), Mastercraft Digital Temperature Reader (P = .972), and Pro Point Infrared Thermometer (P = .774). The results for intraclass correlation demonstrated a high reliability and agreement between raters, as the intraclass correlation coefficient values for all thermometers were greater than 0.95.


CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study demonstrate that less expensive, industrial-grade noncontact infrared thermometers have reliable temperature readings to identify and quantify the temperature gradients that along with other signs may be associated with deep and surrounding wound infection or tissue injury due to repeated microtrauma.