BACKGROUND: Newborns, particularly premature newborns, are susceptible to hypothermia when transitioning from birth to admission to the NICU, potentially leading to increased mortality and morbidity. Despite attention to this issue, our rate of admission hypothermia was 39.8%.
METHODS: We aimed to reduce the rate of admission hypothermia for all inborn infants admitted to our institution to <10%. We undertook a quality improvement effort that spanned from 2013 through 2019 in our level IV NICU. Current state analysis involved investigating patient risk factors for hypothermia and staff understanding of hypothermia prevention. Improvement cycles included auditing processes, an in-hospital relocation of our NICU, expanded use of chemical heat mattresses and polyethylene bags, and staff education. Improvement was evaluated by using Shewhart control charts.
RESULTS: We demonstrated a reduction in admission hypothermia from 39.8% to 9.9%, which was temporally related to educational efforts and expanded use of chemical heat mattresses and polyethylene bags. There was not an increase in admission hyperthermia over this time period. We found that our group at highest risk of admission hypothermia was not our most premature cohort but those infants born between 33 and 36 6/7 weeks’ gestation and those infants prenatally diagnosed with congenital anomalies.
CONCLUSIONS: Expanded use of polyethylene bags and chemical heat mattresses can improve thermoregulation particularly when combined with staff education. Although premature infants have been the focus of many hypothermia prevention efforts, our data suggest that older infants, and those infants born with congenital anomalies, require additional attention.