FORT WORTH, Texas - Premature babies in a Texas hospital are staying warm thanks to an everyday household item.
Nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Health Fort Worth developed a program to keep fragile babies warmer, KXAS reported. Getting the slightest chill can increase the chance that premature babies could develop life-threatening illnesses.
The program involves placing the most fragile premature babies, usually less than 32 weeks gestation and 3.3 pounds, into Ziploc freezer bags, KXAS reported. A hole is cut at the top of the bag and the baby is slid in headfirst moments after birth.
"It creates kind of a hot house effect so the babies stay warm. So, as they are rolled into the NICU, their admission temperatures are normal," clinical educator Stephanie Eidson told KXAS.
"It sounds so simple that people might wonder why the focus on temperature is just now being addressed, but the process was actually very involved," NICU manager Lindsey Cannon said.
Cannon and Eidson put together a team consisting of labor and delivery and NICU nurses and leaders, physicians, respiratory therapists, and operating room, engineering and housekeeping staff to work on what's been called the Hypothermia Eradication from Admission Temperatures "H.E.A.T." study.
The study resulted in interventions like the use of preheated radiant warmers, thermal mattresses, polypropylene bags and plastic shower caps to prevent infant heat loss upon birth, KXAS reported. Additionally, they increased the room temperature of the delivery room from 74 to 76 degrees, using cooling vests to keep staff comfortable.
The results have been dramatic. Within two years, the percentage of hypothermic infants on NICU admission decreased from 20 percent to 10 percent, and the percentage of infants with normal temperatures increased from 50 percent to 70 percent, according to the hospital system.