Hypothermia is a state in which the temperature of a human body is below the normal temperature, with the onset of the hypothermic state commonly regarded as 36 °C. This state may be encountered due to exposure to a very cold environment in the outdoors or, surprisingly, in a hospital operating room. In the latter situation, the diminution of metabolic heat generation, coupled with moderate temperatures in the surroundings and absence of a covering over the afflicted parts of the body, creates the possibility of hypothermia. There are several available devices that are designed to ward off the onset of hypothermia. These currently most frequently used devices can be placed in two categories: (a) convective air warming and (b) direct-contact heat conduction. The warming principles that underlie these two approaches are distinctly different. Furthermore, the energy efficiencies of the two approaches differ significantly. The energy penalty which results from these different efficiencies may be compounded by the fact that the portion of the input energies to these devices which escapes into the operating room ambient must be extracted to maintain a comfortable temperature for the surgical staff. Since energy-extracting equipments such as air-conditioning machines are far from being perfectly efficient, the heat-extraction process also introduces wasted energy. Experiments were performed to determine the energy-utilization efficiencies of the representative devices in the two categories cited above. This information, taken together with the known efficiencies of air-conditioning machines, enabled an overall efficiency encompassing both the therapeutic device and the heat-extraction device to be calculated. The experimental data revealed that the specifics of individual devices within a category played a larger role with regard to energy efficiency than did the category itself.
- Energy efficiency
- Medical device