OBJECTIVE: To determine what changes occur in paraspinal heat patterns when the back is exposed to room temperature.
STUDY DESIGN: Observational; measures repeated at 5-minute intervals for 31 minutes.
METHODS: Thirty subjects were scanned with digital infrared thermographic instrumentation every 5 minutes over a 31-minute period for a total of 7 readings. A computerized calculation of percent similarity between consecutive comparisons of the readings was then performed to determine if and when the pattern stabilized. RESULTS: Cervical spine temperatures remained constant while lower back temperatures, in general, decreased for the entire 31-minute recording period. Although the results varied among subjects, on the average, the patterns stabilized after 16 minutes.
CONCLUSIONS: Once the patient's back is exposed to cooler room temperature, the skin temperature decreases constantly for 31 minutes; however, the pattern becomes stable after 16 minutes. Readings taken for the purpose of pattern analysis during this 16-minute period may be unreliable for some patients. Therefore, a 16-minute acclimation period is recommended. Further research is needed to not only verify this finding with the same equipment in a separate experiment but to verify it as well with other types of temperature instrumentation.
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