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Dangers of Microwave-Heated Compresses

Alfred Soffer
Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(11):1242. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.11.1242.
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Microwave-heated cryogel hot/cold packs offer the convenience of deeper penetration and more prolonged retention of heat than warm soaks or towels. Unfortunately, this type of therapy has resulted in serious second- and third-degree burns. Well-documented reports of major injuries produced by cryogel packs and other forms of microwave-heated compresses have been published in peer review journals in recent years.13 Despite the clear cautions recommended in these articles, a major brand of commercially available cryogel pack contains directions that are entirely inadequate in identifying potential hazards associated with its use. A case of a third-degree burn following the use of a microwave heated cryogel pack was reported by Dave.1 He concluded that a "lack of sufficient warning on the pack itself is a potential hazard. Microwave ovens heat quickly, deeply and unevenly: Readings can be misleading, paving the way for serious injuries."

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Figure 1.

Heat pack consisting of a cryogel insert and a terry cloth sleeve.

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Figure 2.

Second-degree burn area on anterior aspect of shin.

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