A patient’s core body temperature must be above 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit and below 107.6 for wound healing to occur.

The loss of moisture from any surface by evaporation is accompanied by cooling of the surface. So, as wound tissues lose moisture, a cooling effect occurs resulting in lower wound temperature.

Even a decrease of only 2 degrees Celsius is sufficient enough to affect the biological healing process of your patients. This is because cells and enzymes function optimally only at normal body temperature.

What happens when temperature decreases in a wound? 

When tissue cools it can lead to an increased risk of infection because it causes vasoconstriction and increases hemoglobin’s need for oxygen. This results in decreased oxygen available for the neutrophils that fight infection.

Neutrophil, fibroblast and epithelial activity declines as temperature drops. 

Hypothermia also inhibits platelet activation, oxidative killing by neutrophils, and a reduction in wound strength as collagen deposition declines, according to an article in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Why wound temperature decreases 

Dressing changes, along with wound cleansing, can decrease wound temperature and cellular activity for up to four hours. This should encourage you to decrease the frequency of dressing changes whenever possible.

Also keep in mind that loose wound dressings can lead to the loss of moisture and heat around the edges of the dressing. Inappropriate dressings, such as gauze, do not impede moisture and heat loss through the dressing itself.

Some things you should consider include:

  • How is temperature affecting your patient’s wound healing rates?
  • Are you considering this variable when approaching the care you deliver?

Follow the facts

When a wound dressing is changed, it can drop a base wound temperature for up to four hours before it returns to normal.

So next time you’re considering healing times or prepping your patient for a dressing change, think about how wound temperature might affect outcomes.


Take our course on Skin and Wound Management to learn more.

Editor’s note: Bill Richlen, PT, WCC, DWC, reviewed and updated this blog for clinical accuracy.

Bill Richlen, PT, WCC, DWC

Bill Richlen, PT, WCC, DWC, is a licensed physical therapist and has experience in advanced wound care consultations in long-term care, outpatient, skilled rehabilitation and home health. He has served as a clinical instructor for physical therapy students, been the director of several large rehabilitation departments, and has been providing multi-disciplinary wound care education to nurses and therapists for over 17 years. His expertise in diverse settings enhance his role as a clinical instructor. Bill’s dynamic and captivating teaching style keep’s attendee’s attention throughout the course.

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