Caesarean section (CS) is the most prevalent surgical procedure in women. The incidence of surgical site infection (SSI) after CS remains high but recent observations of CS wounds using infrared thermography has shown promise for the technique in SSI prognosis. Although thermography is recognised as a ‘surrogate’ of skin perfusion, little is known of the relationship between skin temperature and skin perfusion in the context of wound healing. Aim:
To assess the extent of literature regarding the application of infrared thermography and mapping of abdominal cutaneous perfusion after CS. Methods:
Wide eligibility criteria were used to capture all relevant studies of any design, published in English, and addressing thermal imaging or skin perfusion mapping of the abdominal wall. The CINAHL and MEDLINE databases were searched, with two independent reviewers screening the title and abstracts of all identified citations, followed by full-text screening of relevant studies. Data extraction from included studies was undertaken using a pre-specified data extraction chart. Data were tabulated and synthesised in narrative format. Results
: From 83 citations identified, 18 studies were considered relevant. With three additional studies identified from the reference lists, 21 studies were screened via full text. None of the studies reported thermal imaging and cutaneous perfusion patterns of the anterior abdominal wall. However, two observational studies partially met the inclusion criteria. The first explored analysis methodologies to ‘interrogate’ the abdominal thermal map. A specific thermal signature (‘cold spots’) was identified as an early ‘flag’ for SSI risk. A second study, by the same authors, focusing on obesity (a known risk factor for SSI after CS) showed that a 1 °C lower abdominal skin temperature led to a 3-fold odds of SSI. Conclusion:
There is a significant gap in knowledge on how to forewarn of wound complications after CS. By utilising the known association between skin temperature and blood flow, thermographic assessment of the wound and adjacent thermal territories has potential as a non-invasive, independent, imaging option with which to identify tissue ‘at risk’. By identifying skin ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ spots, commensurate with high or low blood flow regions, there is potential to shed light on the underlying mechanisms leading to infective and non-infective wound complications.
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