Blanket and fluid warming cabinets: common mistakes when using them
While most hospitals have blanket and fluid warmer cabinets in regular use, there is still a need for more education and research on their usage. These cabinets are an excellent tool for preventing hypothermia, surgical site infections, improving the effectiveness of medication, and more. However, there are some aspects of their operation that are often not well-understood. Unfortunately, warming cabinets are frequently put into service with little or no training. Below, there are several common mistakes when using them.
Placing blankets and fluids in the same compartment
To achieve maximum effectiveness, blankets are usually heated to temperatures between 60 and 93°C. However, it's important to note that IV solutions and other fluids can't withstand such high temperatures. Subjecting them to these temperatures will shorten their effective lifespan. IV fluids, for example, are typically warmed to 40°C, while irrigation solutions can be warmed to a maximum of 66°C. As blankets generate additional convection heat that can over-warm the fluids and reduce their effectiveness and lifespan, it is critical to avoid mixing them. To prevent this, a dual chamber blanket and fluid warmer cabinet is needed.
Overloading shelves and compartment
For a uniform warming, it is important to leave some air space around all inner panels of the compartment. Overloading shelves and the compartment can decrease air circulation and warming in the cabinet.
IV fluids lifetime
It is advised to refer to the instructions, provided by the manufacturer, to determine the duration for which warmed IV solutions can be stored. Extended storage in the warmer can affect the solution, and as a general guideline, it is recommended to use it within 14 days before removing and discarding it. To ensure proper management, it is recommended to train the personnel to "Take from the front" and "Supply to the back". However, if your facility does not regularly use a large volume of fluids, it is suggested to avoid using the blanket and fluid warmer cabinet for storage. It is crucial to establish a system to prevent fluids from remaining in the cabinet for longer than the supplier's specified time as higher temperatures can decrease the lifespan of the solution rapidly.
Fluids may require different temperatures
This is precisely why a dual chamber cabinets are necessary. When dealing with multiple types of solutions and fluids that require different warming temperatures, dividing them into two chambers with separate temperature control may be required.
To summarize, warming cabinets offer significant clinical advantages. Nevertheless, it is crucial to ensure that healthcare professionals are acquainted with these easy-to-follow suggestions and that the blanket and fluid warmers are used in accordance with the instructions.