Does the technique employed for skin temperature assessment alter outcomes? a systematic review

Aaron Bach, Geoffrey M. Minett, Ian B. Stewart, Joseph Costello

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Skin temperature is an important physiological measure that can reflect the presence of illness and injury as well as provide insight into the localised interactions between the body and the environment. The aim of this systematic review was to analyse the agreement between conductive and infrared means of assessing skin temperature which are commonly employed in in clinical, occupational, sports medicine, public health and research settings. Full-text eligibility was determined independently by two reviewers. Studies meeting the following criteria were included in the review: 1) the literature was written in English, 2) participants were human (in vivo), 3) skin surface temperature was assessed at the same site, 4) with at least two commercially available devices employed—one conductive and one infrared—and 5) had skin temperature data reported in the study. A computerised search of four electronic databases, using a combination of 21 keywords, and citation tracking was performed in January 2015. A total of 8,602 were returned. Methodology quality was assessed by 2 authors independently, using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. A total of 16 articles (n = 245) met the inclusion criteria. Devices are classified to be in agreement if they met the clinically meaningful recommendations of mean differences within ±0.5 °C and limits of agreement of ±1.0 °C. Twelve of the included studies found mean differences greater than ±0.5 °C between conductive and infrared devices. In the presence of external stimulus (e.g. exercise and/or heat) five studies foundexacerbated measurement differences between conductive and infrared devices. This is the first review that has attempted to investigate presence of any systemic bias between infrared and conductive measures by collectively evaluating the current evidence base. There was also a consistently high risk of bias across the studies, in terms of sample size, random sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding and incomplete outcome data. This systematic review questions the suitability of using infrared cameras in stable, resting, laboratory conditions. Furthermore, both infrared cameras and thermometers in the presence of sweat and environmental heat demonstrate poor agreement when compared to conductive devices. These findings have implications for clinical, occupational, public health, sports science and research fields.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R27-R51
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number9
Early online date10 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


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