Facial warming increases the threshold for shivering

Paul A. Iaizzo, Yong M. Jeon, Daniel C. Sigg

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30 Scopus citations


A decrease of 1-2°C core temperature provides protection against cerebral ischemia. However, shivering usually prevents reduction in core temperature in unanesthetized patients. Therefore, it was tested whether facial and airway heating increases the shivering threshold and enables core cooling in unanesthetized patients. Nine trials were performed on seven healthy male volunteers. Each subject was positioned supine on a circulating- water mattress (8-15°C) with a convective-air coverlet (15-18°C) extending from the neck to the feet. A dynamic study protocol governed by individualized physiological responses was used. Focal facial (and airway) warming was employed to suppress involuntary motor activity (muscle tensing, shivering) and, thereby, enabling noninvasive cooling to lower the core temperature. The following parameters were monitored: 1) heart rate, 2) blood pressure, 3) core temperature (tympanic, axilla, and rectal), 4) cutaneous temperatures, and 5) a subjective shiver index (scale 1-10). In three, electromyograms and infrared thermographs were also obtained. Upon cooling without facial and airway warming, involuntary motor activity increased until it was widespread. This vigorous motor activity prevented any significant lowering of core temperature or caused it to slightly increase. Subsequently, in all subjects, within seconds after the application of facial focal warming, motor activity was suppressed almost completely, and within minutes core temperatures significantly decreased. Preliminary studies described here indicate that focal facial warming applied during active whole body cooling to initiate mild hypothermia might minimize the need to pharmacologically suppress involuntary motor activity. Such a procedure might be useful for initiating as soon as possible (such as during emergency transport), cerebral mild hypothermia in order to maximize protection and thus improve outcome in neurologically injured patients (head trauma, stroke).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-239
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1999


  • Acute stroke
  • Cerebral protection
  • Facial warming
  • Head injury
  • Intensive care unit patient
  • Mild hypothermia
  • Noninvasive cooling
  • Shiver suppression


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