Keeping Patients Warm and Safe During Surgery

A mild drop in body temperature can be critical

patient under blanket

How can a surgical team prevent a patient from becoming too cold while under anesthesia? This is one of the important questions explored by the Department of Outcomes Research, an integral part of Cleveland Clinic’s Anesthesiology Institute.

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Founded in 2005 by Daniel Sessler, MD, the department supports every aspect of clinical anesthesiology research, including trial coordination, data handling, statistical analysis and regulatory functions.

Cold can be dangerous to surgical patients

“Our department is best known for thermoregulation research,” says Dr. Sessler, Chair of the Department of Outcomes Research and holder of the Michael J. Cudahy Endowed Chair.

“Our research has determined that even mild hypothermia can be dangerous for patients. The consequences of even a few degrees Fahrenheit include increased blood loss and transfusion requirement, surgical wound infection, and prolonged hospitalization and recovery,” says Dr. Sessler.

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When his team began this research, he says, “virtually all surgical patients became hypothermic.” However, the team’s findings led to better methods of keeping surgical patients warm and have become the national standard of care.

Currently, the department is studying postoperative heart attacks, which are by far the most common cause of death after otherwise routine surgery in patients over age 45. “We are trying to determine who’s most likely to have a heart attack, safe and effective ways of preventing heart attacks, and how best to treat them,” Dr. Sessler says.

Inspired to give

The Outcomes Research department is the largest clinical anesthesiology research group of its kind, says Dr. Sessler. “No other group is even close to us in terms of number of papers published or research impact.”

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Cleveland Clinic’s dedication to research has inspired Dr. Sessler and his wife, Ximena Valdes, MD, to make a substantial philanthropic gift supporting clinical research in the Anesthesiology Institute.

“Cleveland Clinic is one of the world’s best healthcare organizations,” Dr. Sessler says. “It is a great environment for clinical research, with large numbers of patients, high-quality electronic records, collaborative clinicians, and outstanding research support.”

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