Evaluation of Three Brands of Tympanic Thermometer

Carolyn Hoffman, Marion Boyd, Bonnie Briere, Francis Loos, Peter J. Norton

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Infrared tympanic thermometers (ITT) have many documented benefits, including speed, ease of use, and noninvasiveness, to support their use in emergency departments (ED) and intensive care units (ICU). However, concerns have been raised about the accuracy of temperatures reported by ITT. This study was conducted to evaluate the accuracy of 3 brands of ITT, compared to rectal and pulmonary artery thermometers, in ED and ICU settings. Results indicated adequate specificity for all 3 ITT in ED (range = 0.9242 to 1.0000) and ICU (range = 0.9737 to 1.0000), but unacceptable sensitivity in ED (range = 0.5455 to 0.8000) and ICU (range = 0.0000). Further analyses indicated highly variable ITT-reported temperatures. In ED, ITT temperatures were, on average, 0.3684°C lower, and could be expected to vary by more than 2°C from the actual temperature as reported by rectal thermometer. In ICU, the average reported temperature was similar to the actual pulmonary artery temperature (0.0259°C lower), but again could vary by more than 2°C. Recommendations for nursing and education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-131
Number of pages15
JournalCanadian Journal of Nursing Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes

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