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Rectal thermometer better than mouth, armpit for detecting fever

Peripheral thermometers have poor accuracy and sensitivity for detecting low-grade fevers, researchers said.

By Stephen Feller
Rectal thermometer better than mouth, armpit for detecting fever
When making diagnosis or treatment decisions, researchers suggest doctors not rely on peripheral thermometers. Photo by Piotr Adamowicz/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Patient temperature is a primary way of monitoring conditions or detecting illness, making accuracy important.

Although rectal thermometers are generally not a patient's first choice, a new study suggests central thermometers, which take temperatures inside the body from a pulmonary artery catheter, urinary bladder, esophagus, or rectum, are more accurate and sensitive than peripheral thermometers.

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Peripheral thermometers have become popular and preferred for the sake of comfort, however taking temperature orally, in the underarm or somewhere else outside the body was shown to be less accurate than more invasive methods, according to a press release.

Researchers in Canada reviewed 75 studies that included 8,682 patients, finding that among patients either with fever or hypothermia, peripheral thermometer accuracy was outside an acceptable range, and that sensitivity was generally low when it came lower fevers.

"Peripheral thermometers do not have clinically acceptable accuracy and should not be used when accurate measurement of body temperature will influence clinical decisions," researchers wrote in the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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