The effects of sauna on tetraplegic and paraplegic subjects

Authors: Gerner HJ (1) , Engel P (2) , Gass GC (3) , Hannich T (1) , Feldmann G (1)
(1) Zentrum für Ruckenmarkverletzte, Werner-Wicker Klinik, Bad Wildungen-Reinhardshausen (2) Institut für Arbeitsphysiologie und Rehabilitationsforschung, University of Marburg (3) Rehabilitation Research Centre, Cumberland College of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney
Source: Paraplegia. 1992 Jun;30(6):410-9
DOI: 10.1038/sc.1992.91 Publication date: 1992 Jun E-Publication date: Not specified Availability: full text Copyright: Not specified
Language: English Countries: Not specified Location: Not specified Correspondence address: GC Gass, Rehabilitation Research Centre, Cumberland College of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, PO Box 170, Lidcombe, NSW 2141, Australia


Article abstract

Six tetraplegic (T) and 4 paraplegic (P) subjects underwent a 20-minute pre sauna phase (30 °C DB; 65% RH), and an up to 15-minute sauna (85 °C DB; < 10% RH), followed by a 15 minute post sauna phase (30°C DB; 65% RH). During all phases subjects wore a bathing suit and remained supine on a hospital trolley. Heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) were recorded during all phases. Rectal temperature (Trec) was measured by a probe (AD590) inserted approximately 14 cm into the rectum. Oral temperature (Toral) also utilising (AD590) circuitry was recorded simultaneously with Trec. Skin temperature (Tsk) (AD590) was measured on the head, chest, right thigh and right calf. Forehead sweat rate (SR) was determined from dew point temperature (Tdp). A catheter was inserted into a dorsal hand or foot vein and venous blood was withdrawn at selected times and analysed for haemoglobin (Hb) and haematocrit (Hct), and the separated plasma was analysed for glucose (Glu), sodium (Na+), potassium (K+) and chloride (Cl-). Venous blood sampled just prior to entering and just prior to leaving the sauna, was analysed for adrenalin (A) and noradrenalin (NA) using high performance liquid chromatography.

For both groups HR rose significantly during the sauna with a significant decline in HR for the P group during the post sauna phase. There were no significant changes in systolic BP for either group. A significant decline in diastolic BP was found for the T group during the post sauna phase. There were no episodes of syncope. Trec for the T group rose significantly from 37.03 ± 0.31 °C at rest to 37.81 ±0.32°C after 15 minutes of sauna, and Trec continued to rise during the post sauna phase to reach 38.24 ± 0.61 °C. Trec for the P group also rose significantly from 37.27 ± 0.04 °C at rest to reach 37.75 ±0.17 °C and 37.94 ± 0.20 °C at the end of the sauna and post sauna phase respectively. Toral increased significantly for T and P groups during sauna to reach 39.50 ± 0.18 °C and 39.38 ± 0.48 °C respectively. There were significant increases in all Tsk during sauna for both groups.

SR increased significantly during the sauna for the P group but not for the T group. The loss in body weight was significantly higher for the P group (0.49 ±0.17 kg) than the T group (0.173 ± 0.13 kg). The changes in Hb, Hct, Glu, Na+, K+, Cl-, and A were not significant. The NA concentration rose significantly during sauna for the P group. It would appear that sauna bathing for up to 15 minutes for tetraplegics and paraplegics with a normal body temperature is a safe procedure.

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