Technical note: unsafe rectal temperature measurements due to delayed warming of the thermocouple by using a condom: An issue concerning the estimation of the postmortem interval by using Henßge’s nomogram

Wilma Duijst, Tristan Krap*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In some cases, in the Netherlands, an additional layer is being added to the thermocouple, used to measure the rectal temperature in medicolegal death investigations. Because of this deviation from the standard method, questions arose regarding the accuracy and precision of the measured temperature. Therefore, a cooling experiment was carried out on a round body made of agar with an average thermal conductivity of 0.454 W/(m ?C) while measuring the temperature with and without an additional layer around the thermocouple for three different starting temperatures: 36, 30, and 27 ?C. The results show a significant difference between the measured values for the first 5 min when comparing with and without the additional layer. Further, a decrease in precision is present within the first minutes when using an additional layer. Therefore, it is concluded that it is best to measure the rectal temperature without an additional layer around the thermocouple and caution should be taken when measuring with an additional layer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447–456
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number2
Early online dateMay 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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