Double wall versus single wall incubator for reducing heat loss in very low birth weight infants in incubators (Review)
Studies have shown improved survival of newborn infants maintained in the thermoneutral range. The concept of an incubator with additional insulation, a double plexiglass wall, is appealing for very low birth weight infants as it may help to provide a thermoneutral environment.
To assess the effects of double walled incubator versus a single wall incubator on insensible water loss, rate of oxygen consumption, episodes of hypothermia, time to regain birth weight, duration of hospitalization and infant mortality in premature infants.
The standard search strategy of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group was used. This included searches of electronic databases: Oxford Database of Perinatal Trials, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2006), MEDLINE (1966 - 2006), EMBASE, previous reviews including cross references, abstracts, conference and symposia proceedings, expert informants in all published languages, and CINAHL (1982 - 2006).
Only studies using random or quasi-random methods of allocation were considered for this review. Eligible studies assessed at least one of the outcome variables identified as important to this topic.
Independent data extraction and quality assessment of included trials was conducted by the review authors. Data were analyzed using generic inverse variance methodology and weighted mean difference (WMD). Results are presented with 95% confidence intervals. Meta-analysis was undertaken using a fixed effect model.
Three studies met the criteria. Four other studies were excluded, as they did not compare double versus single wall incubators (details of the studies are given in the included and excluded studies section). Double wall incubators have the advantage of decreasing heat loss, decreasing heat production and decreasing radiant heat loss when compared to single wall incubators. There is also the advantage of reduced oxygen consumption. A minimal increase in conductive heat loss was noted when compared to single wall incubators. All of these effects are small and do not support the proposition that double wall incubators have a beneficial effect on long term outcomes including mortality or the duration of hospitalization.
Although it appears that caring for extremely small infants in double wall incubators may theoretically result in shorter hospitalization and may have metabolic advantages, this review was unable to find any data in the literature to support or refute this hypothesis. The studies do not provide any evidence that the small decrease in heat loss improves clinical outcome. Therefore, the available data is insufficient to directly guide clinical practice.
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