Body temperature is a critical vital sign in neonates, especially in preterm infants. These babies are vulnerable to temperature fluctuations due to their immature thermoregulatory systems. Maintaining the right body temperature is crucial for their health and well-being as abnormal temperatures can lead to complications and even mortality in very preterm neonates.
In neonatal care, monitoring and maintaining an infant’s temperature within a narrow range of 36.5˚C to 37.5˚C is vital. Even a small variation can be significant for these high-risk patients, with hyperthermia (above 37.5˚C) and hypothermia (below 36.5˚C) posing risks (1). Moreover, temperature instability is often one of the earliest signs of illness in neonates.
To ensure accurate and non-invasive temperature monitoring for preterm neonates, a study was conducted in the Neonatal Unit of a Hospital in Northern Ireland. The study aimed to evaluate the performance of a non-contact infrared (NCIR) forehead thermometer, known as TRITEMP™, in comparison with the electronic axillary thermometer, which is traditionally used for temperature measurement in the axilla.
The study included mainly normothermic neonates. Three consecutive temperature readings were taken using both the TRITEMP™ and axilla thermometers, resulting in a total of 90 sets of temperature measurements. In addition to temperature data, feedback was collected from 23 nursing staff to assess the benefits of the TRITEMP™ thermometer for both the patients and the medical team.
The results of the study indicated that the TRITEMP™ thermometer produced temperature readings in close agreement with the axillary temperature. The mean temperature recordings for the forehead and axillary thermometers were 36.8˚C and 36.7˚C, respectively, demonstrating minimal variation.
Interestingly, the performance of the TRITEMP™ thermometer was consistent across different environmental conditions, with or without thermal support. This consistency indicates that the TRITEMP™ is a reliable tool for temperature monitoring in preterm neonates, regardless of their surroundings.
Furthermore, the TRITEMP™ thermometer offers several advantages over the traditional axillary thermometer. It minimizes disturbance to the neonates, which is crucial for their well-being. The study showed that the axillary thermometer often caused discomfort and distress to the infants, leading to hypoxia, and potentially worsening their condition.
In contrast, the forehead TRITEMP™ thermometer caused minimal disruption to the neonates and promoted a more stable and comfortable environment. This is essential for the development of preterm neonates, supporting factors such as brain growth, sensory functions, and motor coordination.
The TRITEMP™ thermometer also proved to be more efficient for nursing staff, as it reduced the need for frequent adjustments and minimized disturbances to the infants. This improvement in workflow and patient care made it preferable for most of the nursing staff involved in the study.
In conclusion, the non-contact infrared forehead thermometer, TRITEMP™, is a reliable and efficient tool for measuring the temperature of preterm neonates. It provides quick, accurate, and non-invasive temperature readings, causing minimal disturbance to the infants. This device improves the workflow for nursing staff and enhances the quality of care provided to neonates. Further research is needed to determine its accuracy in detecting temperature changes in febrile and hypothermic preterm neonates.
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