Objective: To explore any changes in temperature control during neonatal emergency inter-hospital transport between 1977 and 1996.
Methods: Records were reviewed of all infants undergoing emergency transfer by the statewide Victorian Newborn Emergency Transport Service (NETS). Per axillary temperatures were recorded prospectively on arrival of transport team and at conclusion of transfer for all infants.
Results: The rate of hypothermia (< 36.0 degrees C) when NETS reached the infant has decreased overall (22% in 1977-79 to 7% in 1995-96) and for all weight groups; although in 1995-96 hypothermia was present in 36% of infants less than 1000 g when NETS arrived. The rate of hypothermia (< 36.0 degrees C) at the end of the transfer has remained at 3% overall for many years. The rate of hyperthermia at both times has increased significantly overall (12% in 1977-79 to 24% in 1995-96 on NETS arrival, 4%-19%, respectively at end of transfer) and for all weight groups except infants less than 1000 g. The range of abnormal temperatures has not substantially changed over time.
Conclusion: There has been significant improvement in avoidance of hypothermia and cold stress amongst infants requiring emergency neonatal transport from 1977 to 1996. However, in order to improve the number of infants transferred who achieve a temperature in the normal range the need to avoid hyperthermia is highlighted. Infants who require incubator care for optimal medical management require continual monitoring of temperature and review of environmental conditions to optimise the conditions both prior to and during transport.