Plastic drapes reduce hypothermia in premature babies

Premature babies and those with medical problems are often quickly taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where they may require heating devices to regulate their temperatures. University of Houston College of Nursing researchers have reported that traditional blanket and towel use during central catheter (PICC), placement can hinder heat transfer to the assisted heating mechanisms, increasing the likelihood of neonatal hypothermia. Huong (Kelle Phan), a clinical assistant professor, reported that a plastic wrap lowers the risk of hypothermia in Advances in Neonatal Care.Phan stated that the plastic drape was a quality improvement in order to decrease the hypothermia rate of very low-birth-weight neonates (VLBW). This is done by replacing cloth blankets/towels during PICC placement with a plastic drape. A plastic drape is a promising addition to nursing practice, as it provides improved thermoregulation for premature neonates during PICC placing.Premature babies can experience cold stress if their body temperature falls below 36.5C. For postnatal stabilization, the recommended temperature range is between 36.5C and 37.5C.Phan's research involved implementing plastic drapes for three months during 58 PICC procedures at a Level-3NICU. To evaluate the effect of the intervention on hypothermia rates, a pre- and posttest was conducted. It was compared to a baseline cloth group as well as a concurrent cloth cohort."After the 3-month implementation period the hypothermia rate in the intervention group was lower that that in the baseline cloth group (5.2% vs 11.3%, respectively). Phan stated that post-PICC hypothermia rates for the intervention group were significantly lower than those for the concurrent cloth cohort.The evidence showed that plastic drapes were less hypothermic than cloth blankets and towels during PICC placement.Kathryn Tart (founding dean, Humana Endowed Dean's chair in nursing, UH College of Nursing) said that "Phan's innovative nursing approach of using the plastic drape during PICC insertion assists some of our most vulnerable patient, those infants who must be treated in neonatal ICU units."Phan suggests further research to replicate findings using larger samples of PICC insertions. Phan also recommends the use of a plastic drape in an operating room for other NICU procedures.