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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1991 Sep;39(9):853-7.

Fever response in elderly nursing home residents: are the older truly colder?

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  • 1Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, VA Medical Center West Los Angeles, CA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To test the hypothesis that many nursing home residents with an apparently blunted fever response (maximum temperature less than 101 degrees F) may actually have a significant change in temperature (delta T greater than or equal to 2.4 degrees F) which is not recognized because of a low baseline temperature.

DESIGN:

Retrospective chart review for cases of infection that met specific criteria and for chart-recorded baseline and infection temperatures. Chart-recorded baseline temperatures were prospectively compared with re-measurement of morning temperatures.

SETTING:

Nursing Home Care Unit of the VAMC West Los Angeles.

PATIENTS:

Random review of 40 residents' charts resulted in the detection of 69 infections among 26 residents over a 20-month period. Fifty randomly selected residents prospectively underwent comparison of chart-determined and actual re-measurement of baseline temperatures.

RESULTS:

In 50 randomly selected residents, the mean oral baseline temperature of 97.4 +/- 0.2 (degrees F +/- SEM) closely approximated the mean nurse-recorded measures in the charts (97.6 +/- 0.1). Chart review detected 69 infections among 26 residents, with 53 episodes having a temperature recorded during the infection. The mean maximum temperature (Tmax) during an infection was 101.3 +/- 0.3 (degrees F +/- SEM) but 47% (25/53) of the episodes had a "blunted" fever response (Tmax less than 101 degrees F). Of the 25 "blunted" fevers (Tmax less than 101 degrees F), about one-fourth demonstrated an adequate change in temperature from baseline (delta T greater than or equal to 2.4 degrees F) but failed to reach 101 degrees F because of a low baseline. Most infections (89%) had a Tmax greater than 99 degrees F.

CONCLUSION:

Establishing a nursing home patient's basal temperature and monitoring for changes in temperature (delta T greater than 2.4 degrees F) and/or lowering the threshold for recognition of fevers (to 99 degrees or 100 degrees F) in nursing home residents with a change in function should assist in early recognition of infections.

PMID:
1885858
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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