Picture of Health

A Better Body Warmer?

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

What looks like a glass-enclosed computer mouse is a new device called VitalHeat, designed to maintain body heat during and after surgery , reducing the risk of infections. According to Dynatherm Medical of Fremont, Calif., the product warms the body faster and more efficiently than conventional methods like blankets and forced air.

The gadget works by manipulating the arteriovenous anastomoses (AVAs) -- blood vessels in the palm that help regulate body temperature. The vessels close when surgical anesthesia cools the body, preventing warm blood from reaching exposed, chilled organs. To correct this, a patient's hand is placed on a warmed surface inside the VitalHeat. The device is then sealed and the air pumped out to create a vacuum, which opens the AVAs. Warm blood near the body's surface can then quickly flow to its core.

The Food and Drug Administration advises against use for patients under 18 and those with peripheral vascular disease.

--Matt McMillen

© 2005 The Washington Post Company