Heat Loss Prevention for Preterm Infants in the Delivery Room

 OBJECTIVE: Preterm infants are prone to hypothermia immediately following birth. Among other factors, excessive evaporative heat loss and the relatively cool ambient temperature of the delivery room may be important contributors. Most infants <29 weeks gestation had temperatures <36.4°C on admission to our neonatal unit (NICU). Therefore we conducted a randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the effect of placing these infants in polyurethane bags in the delivery room to prevent heat loss and reduce the occurrence of hypothermia on admission to the NICU.
METHODS: After parental consent was obtained, infants expected to be <29 weeks gestation were randomized to intervention or control groups just prior to their birth. Infants randomized to the intervention group were placed in polyurethane bags up to their necks immediately after delivery before being dried. They were then resuscitated per NRP guidelines, covered with warm blankets, and transported to the NICU, where the bags were removed and rectal temperatures were recorded. Control infants were resuscitated, covered with warm blankets, and transported without being placed in polyurethane bags. Delivery room temperatures were recorded so this potentially confounding variable could be assessed.
RESULTS: Intervention patients were less likely than control patients to have temperature < 36.4°C on admission , 44 vs 70% (p<0.01) and the intervention group had a higher mean admission temperature, 36.5°C vs 36.0°C (p<0.003). This effect remained significant (p<0.0001) when delivery room temperature was controlled in analysis. Warmer delivery room temperatures (26°C) were associated with higher admission temperatures in both intervention and control infants, but only the subgroup of intervention patients born in warmer delivery rooms had a mean admission temperature >36.4°C.
CONCLUSIONS: Placing infants <29 weeks gestation in polyurethane bags in the delivery room reduced the occurrence of hypothermia and increased their NICU admission temperatures. Maintaining warmer delivery rooms helped but was insufficient in preventing hypothermia in most of these vulnerable patients without the adjunctive use of the polyurethane bags.