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Thermal comfort of patients in healthcare facilities

Thursday, 3 May, 2012 - 16:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Jan Verheyen
phd defence

Thermal comfort is an important aspect in providing an adequate indoor climate,
especially in healthcare facilities. For patients, thermal environment may induce
physiological stress, additional to stress related to the disease, post-surgery or injury of
the patient. This stress may even impose life-threatening conditions. In this dissertation
thermal comfort of patients in healthcare facilities is studied.

Differences in thermal environmental conditions required for acceptable global thermal
comfort are detected for staff, visitors and patients. Largest discrepancies are seen
between staff and patients in a chair in summer and between patients in the bed or staff
and patients outside the bed in winter. These results are obtained using standards and
existing methods that neglect every influence of disease, injury, post-surgery, treatment
or other aspects related to the healthcare setting.

To provide insight in this influence, global thermal comfort perception of patients in 6
wards in a Belgian healthcare facility is obtained by questioning and compared to results
of existing thermal comfort models. The results indicate that models, currently in use for
healthy people, adequately predict mean thermal comfort perception for the majority of
patient population for the wards considered except for neurology ward. Adaptive thermal
comfort theory may not be suitable for application for patients without careful
consideration of the limited possibilities to adapt. This research approach can be
continued for extended number of patients and for other wards to provide a go/no go
prerequisite decision for applying standard methods for determination of global thermal

To gain more insight in the case of a patient lying in bed, local thermal comfort of a
human lying in bed is studied using different existing models. These models include local
thermal sensation and comfort, thermo-physiology and –regulation and computational
fluid dynamics (CFD). CFD is used for simulation of heat transfer and airflow around the
human body and determination of mattress local total thermal insulation values. The
influence of thermal insulation provided by the bedding system on local thermal comfort
or sensation is visualized. The influence of disease, injury, post-surgery, treatment and
other healthcare specific aspects is neglected. The application of the method and results
can be broadened to resting environments in general.