Author(s): Khouri RK, Shaw WW
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Abstract Surface-temperature recording (STR) is one of the oldest and simplest methods of postoperative monitoring of free flaps. Its usefulness, however, remains poorly documented, and its problems, not well understood. To assess its value, we reviewed our series of 600 consecutive free flaps where surface-temperature recording was the main method of monitoring used and a detailed temperature record was kept. Seventy flaps suffered a postoperative microvascular compromise necessitating a surgical reexploration. Of these, 62 charts were satisfactory for review and were matched with 62 charts from similar but uncomplicated flaps. The derived value C delta T, which represents the change in temperature difference (delta T) between flap and control sites over a specified time period, was calculated at each time point. Of 10,000 derivations, only once did C delta T greater than 1.8 degrees C fail to identify a microvascular thrombosis, and 17 times a false alarm was given. Therefore, when properly applied and interpreted, the sensitivity of surface-temperature recording is 98 percent, and its predictive value is 75 percent, making it a simple, inexpensive, and highly reliable technique of free-flap monitoring. The thermodynamics behind surface-temperature recording is reviewed, pointing out the pitfalls that have to be avoided in order to improve the reliability of this technique.
This article was published in Plast Reconstr Surg
and referenced in Pediatrics & Therapeutics