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White Paper will talk ‘trade-offs’

Readings from tympanic thermometers should be ‘interpreted with caution', researchers warn. Tympanic thermometers were less repeatable than mercury devices and showed ‘poor' agreement with them, their study found.

Dr Frances Dockery, who will present the research at the British Geriatrics Society conference in Harrogate this week, said: ‘We have to take note that, even though it is reliable, it is not the gold standard. It might be the case it doesn't reflect the patient's temperature accurately.'

Dr Dockery, consultant physician at the department of ageing and health, St Thomas', London, said: ‘Normal temperature with this thermometer doesn't exclude a low-grade fever. Clinical judgment should prevail.'

Mercury readings were highly repeatable, with 95 per cent limits of agreement of -0.23 to +0.24 °C. But tympanic readings varied from -0.69 to +0.64°C.

There was also ‘poor agreement' between the first mercury and first tympanic readings, with 95 per cent limits of -0.77 to +0.99°C.

Dr Dockery said: ‘The key thing is a normal temperature on tympanic should be interpreted with a degree of caution.'

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