Background: Sufficient hypothermia during anesthesia provokes thermoregulatory responses, but the clinical significance of these responses remains unknown. Nonshivering thermogenesis does not increase metabolic heat production in anesthetized adults. Vasoconstriction reduces cutaneous heat loss, but the initial decrease appears insufficient to cause a thermal steady state (heat production equaling heat loss). Accordingly, the authors tested the hypotheses that: 1) thermoregulatory vasoconstriction prevents further core hypothermia; and 2) the resulting stable core temperature is not a thermal steady state, but, instead, is accompanied for several hours by a continued reduction in body heat content. Methods: Six healthy volunteers were anesthetized with isoflurane (0.8%) and paralyzed with vecuronium. Core hypothermia was induced by fan cooling, and continued for 3 h after vasoconstriction in the legs was detected. Leg heat content was calculated from six needle thermocouples and skin temperature, by integrating the resulting parabolic regression over volume. Results: Core temperature decreased 1.0 ± 0.2° C in the 1 h before vasoconstriction, but only 0.4 ± 0.3° C in the subsequent 3 h. This temperature decrease, evenly distributed throughout the body, would reduce leg heat content 10 kcal. However, measured leg heat content decreased 49 ± 18 kcal in the 3 h after vasoconstriction. Conclusions: These data thus indicate that thermoregulatory vasoconstriction produces a clinically important reduction in the rate of core cooling. This core temperature plateau resulted, at least in part, from sequestration of metabolic heat to the core which allowed core temperature to remain nearly constant, despite a continually decreasing body heat content.
- Anesthesia, volatile: isoflurane
- Brain: hypothalamus
- Measurement techniques, blood flow: laser Doppler; skin-temperature gradient; vasomotor index; volume plethysmography
- Temperature, measurement: skin; esophageal
- Temperature, regulation: setpoint; threshold; vasoconstriction
- Vasoconstriction, vasodilation: thermoregulatory