Background Body temperature often is ignored during regional anesthesia, despite evidence that hypothermia occurs commonly. Because hypothermia is associated with adverse clinical outcomes, it is important to recognize predictors of hypothermia and to monitor and control body temperature in patients at risk. The current study was designed to determine the predictors of core hypothermia in patients receiving spinal anesthesia for radical retropubic prostatectomy. Methods Forty-four patients undergoing radical retropubic prostatectomy were studied. A lumbar intrathecal injection of 18-22 mg bupivacaine, 0.75%, with 20 microg fentanyl was given. No active warming measures were used other than intravenous fluid warming. The following clinical variables were assessed as potential predictors of core (tympanic) temperature at admission to the postanesthesia care unit: duration of surgery, average ambient operating room temperature, body habitus, age, and spinal blockade level. Results The mean core temperature at admission to the postanesthesia care unit was 35.1 +/- 0.6 degrees C (range, 33.6-36.3 degrees C). Duration of surgery, ambient operating room temperature, and body habitus were not predictors of hypothermia. A high level of spinal blockade and increasing age were predictors of hypothermia. For each incremental increase in block level, core temperature decreased by 0.15 degrees C, and for each increase in age, core temperature decreased by 0.3 degrees C. Conclusions Although high-level spinal blockade has been associated with decreased thermoregulatory thresholds, no previous study has shown that a higher level of blockade is associated with a greater magnitude of core hypothermia in the clinical setting. As with general anesthesia, advanced age is associated with hypothermia during spinal anesthesia.