Utility of thermal image scanning in screening for febrile patients in cold climates

Short summary of the thermography research

Background: Infrared thermography (IRT) for fever screening systems was introduced in not only general hospitals, but also orthopedic hospitals as a countermeasure against the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Despite the widespread use of IRT, various results have shown low and high efficacies, so the utility of IRT is controversial, especially in cold climates. The aims of this study were to investigate the utility of IRT in screening for fever in a cold climate and to devise suitable fever screening in orthopedic surgery for COVID-19.

Methods: A total of 390 orthopedic surgery patients were enrolled to the outdoor group and 210 hospital staff members were enrolled to the indoor group. Thermographic temperature at the front of the face in the outdoor group was immediately measured after entering our hospital from a cold outdoor environment. Measurements for the indoor group were made after staying in the hospital (environmental temperature, 28 °C) for at least 5 h. Body temperature was then measured using an axillary thermometer >15 min later in both groups.

Results: In the outdoor group, mean thermographic temperature was significantly lower than axillary temperature and IRT could not detect febrile patients with axillary temperatures >37.0 °C. Mean thermographic temperature was significantly lower in the outdoor group than in the indoor group. Sensitivity was 11.5% for the outdoor group, lower than that for the indoor group.

Conclusions: We verified that IRT was not accurate in a cold climate. IRT is inadequate as a screening method to accurately detect febrile individuals, so we believe that stricter countermeasures for second screening need to be employed to prevent nosocomial infections and disease clusters of COVID-19, even in orthopedic hospitals.

Ogawa T, Tsukuda Y, Suzuki Y, Hiratsuka S, Inoue R, Iwasaki N. Utility of thermal image scanning in screening for febrile patients in cold climates. J Orthop Sci. 2022 Nov;27(6):1333-1337. doi: 10.1016/j.jos.2021.08.002. Epub 2021 Sep 3. PMID: 34483016; PMCID: PMC8413570.

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