Objective: To evaluate infant thermal balance and the physical environment in extremely preterm infants during skin-to-skin care (SSC).
Study design: Measurements were performed in 26 extremely preterm infants (gestational age 22-26 weeks; postnatal age, 2-9 days) during pretest (in incubator), test (during SSC), and posttest (in incubator) periods. Infants' skin temperature and body temperature, ambient temperature, and relative humidity were measured. Evaporimetry was used to determine transepidermal water loss, and insensible water loss through the skin was calculated.
Results: The infants maintained a normal body temperature during SSC. Transfer to and from SSC was associated with a drop in skin temperature, which increased during SSC. Ambient humidity and temperature were lower during SSC than during incubator care. Insensible water loss through the skin was higher during SSC.
Conclusion: SSC can be safely used in extremely preterm infants. SSC can be initiated during the first week of life and is feasible in infants requiring neonatal intensive care, including ventilator treatment. During SSC, the conduction of heat from parent to infant is sufficiently high to compensate for the increase in evaporative and convective heat loss. The increased water loss through the skin during SSC is small and should not affect the infant's fluid balance.
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