The surgical patient waits in minimal clothing in a cold operating theater covered by a sheet, shivering as anesthesia begins to drain consciousness away. During long operations, decreased metabolism and stress can cause a serious reduction in body temperature. The Hohenstein Institute, Böennigheim, Germany, looked at commonly used methods of warming patients before, during and after surgery, seeking a better way to maintain body warmth. The result is a six-piece warming system that includes an electrically and thermally conductive yarn knitted into fabric that becomes warm as the yarn is activated. The fabric is only slightly thicker than a surgical drape (and much thinner than other warming technologies), saving space in the operating room.
The system consists of modules for the chest, stomach, both arms and both legs. Each piece can be removed individually to facilitate the surgical procedure, flex to fit patients of different sizes and maintain continuous heat, unlike air warming blankets, heating pads or pre-heated towels that can lose heat over time and interfere with the surgeon. The heating system elements can be disinfected and meet the hygiene guidelines for surgical textiles.