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  1. Sprigle, Stephen PhD, PT
  2. Linden, Maureen MS, BME
  3. McKenna, Diane RN
  4. Davis, Kim MS, PT
  5. Riordan, Brian ME, BME


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate temperature differences between areas of erythema and surrounding healthy tissue to determine whether clinical temperature measurement of sites at risk for pressure ulcer development could be used to indicate tissue damage. To validate the temperature portion of the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel's new Stage I pressure ulcer definition.


DESIGN: Repeated measures design.


SETTING: Acute rehabilitation hospital.


SUBJECTS: 65 outpatients and inpatients presenting with pressure-induced erythema at areas at risk for pressure ulcer development. The subjects were primarily non-ambulatory and exhibited a range of skin pigmentation and disabilities, including spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, and lower-limb amputations.


MAIN RESULTS: The temperature and appearance of 80 pairs of erythematic and control sites were documented. Sites were considered to have equal temperatures if the difference was within plus or minus 1.0[degrees]F. Fifteen percent (n = 12) of the erythematic sites were the same temperature as the surrounding tissue, 23% (n = 18) of the erythematic sites were cooler than the control sites, and 63% (n = 50) were warmer.


CONCLUSION: Both increased and decreased temperature differences can be used to indicate reactive hyperemia or a Stage I pressure ulcer, but a tissue integrity problem may still exist despite the absence of a temperature difference.