Prehospital Active and Passive Warming in Trauma Patients


Heather McLellan, MEd, BN, RN, CEN, CFRN, FAASTN – Tim W.H. Rijnhout, MD – L. Michael Peterson, DO – David F.E. Stuhlmiller, MD – Jerry Edwards, MD – Aous Jarrouj, MD – Damayanti Samanta, MS – Alfred Tager, MD – Edward C.T.H. Tan, MD



Hypothermia is common among trauma patients and can lead to a serious rise in morbidity and mortality. This study was performed to investigate the effect of active and passive warming measures implemented in the prehospital phase on the body temperature of trauma patients.


In a multicenter, multinational prospective observational design, the effect of active and passive warming measures on the incidence of hypothermia was investigated. Adult trauma patients who were transported by helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) or ground emergency medical services with an HEMS physician directly from the scene of injury were included. Four HEMS/ground emergency medical services programs from Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands participated.


A total of 80 patients (n = 20 per site) were included. Eleven percent had hypothermia on presentation, and the initial evaluation occurred predominantly within 60 minutes after injury. In-line fluid warmers and blankets were the most frequently used active and passive warming measures, respectively. Independent risk factors for a negative change in body temperature were transportation by ground ambulance (odds ratio = 3.20; 95% confidence interval, 1.06-11.49; P = .03) and being wet on initial presentation (odds ratio = 3.64; 95% confidence interval, 0.99-13.36; P = .05).


For adult patients transported from the scene of injury to a trauma center, active and passive warming measures, most notably the removal of wet clothing, were associated with a favorable outcome, whereas wet patients and ground ambulance transport were associated with an unfavorable outcome with respect to temperature.

Click below to read the full research paper published by the Air Medical Journal, 2023, ISSN 1067-991X.