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A Journal on Anesthesiology, Resuscitation, Analgesia and Intensive Care

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Anesthesiology, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care
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Minerva Anestesiologica 2003 May;69(5):438-41


language: English

Postanaesthetic shivering. Epidemiology, pathophysiology and approaches to prevention and management

Alfonsi P.

Département of Anesthesia and Resuscitation, Hôpital A. Paré, Boulogne, France


Postanaesthetic shivering is one of the leading causes of discomfort for patients recovering from general anesthesia. During EMG records, the distinguishing factor from shivering in fully awake patients is the existence of clonus similar to that recorded in patients with spinal cord transection. They coexist with the classic waxing and waning signals associated with cutaneous vasoconstriction (thermoregulatory shivering). The causes responsible for their appearance primarily include hypothermia, which sets in due to thermoregulation inhibition by anesthetics. However, we also note the existence of shivering associated with cutaneous vasodilatation (non-thermoregulatory shivering) one of the origins of which is postoperative pain. Apart from the discomfort and aggravated pain, postanaesthetic shivering raises metabolic demand proportionally to the solicited muscle mass and the patient’s cardiac capacities. No link has been demonstrated between their occurrence and an increase in cardiac morbidity but it is preferable to avoid postanaesthetic shivering since it is oxygen draining. Prevention mainly entails preventing hypothermia by actively rewarming the patient. Postoperative skin surface rewarming is a way of obtaining the threshold shivering temperature while raising the skin temperature and improving the patient’s comfort. However, it is less efficient than certain drugs such as meperidine, nefopam or tramadol, which act by reducing the shivering threshold temperature.

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