The impact of hypothermia in a tertiary hospital neonatal unit

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R M Tshehla
M Coetzee
P J Becker


Background. Neonatal hypothermia, defined as a body temperature <36.5°C, is a known contributor to neonatal morbidity and mortality. The admission temperature is an important predictor of neonatal outcomes, and a measure of quality of care.

Objectives. This study aims to determine the incidence of and factors associated with hypothermia on admission to the neonatal unit at Steve Biko Academic Hospital (SBAH), a public tertiary hospital in South Africa.

Methods. A retrospective, cross-sectional study of infants admitted to the neonatal unit from September 2019 to February 2020 using data from patient records.

Results. The overall incidence of hypothermia on admission was 66% (mild 25%, moderate to severe 41%), with a mean (standard deviation (SD)) admission temperature of 35.1 (4.7)°C, and 82% (mild 19%, moderate to severe 62%) in very-low-birthweight infants. Infants remained hypothermic for a mean (SD) of 4.1 (3.9) hours post admission. Birthweight ≤1 500 g (odds ratio (OR) 1.87; p=0.019), admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (OR 1.97; p<0.0001), and admission from the delivery room within the first 60 minutes of life (OR 3.06; p=0.026) were independent risk factors for hypothermia. Hypothermia was associated with increased duration of respiratory support (mean 3.2 (5.6) v. 1.7 (4.5) days; p<0.0001), and longer length of hospital stay (mean 17.9 (18.8) v. 10.9 (12.6) days; p<0.0001).

Conclusion. The incidence of hypothermia on admission to the unit is significantly high, and hypothermic infants take a significant length of time to regain normothermia. A standardised protocol for the prevention and management of hypothermia needs to be introduced in the unit.

Article Details

How to Cite
The impact of hypothermia in a tertiary hospital neonatal unit. (2023). South African Journal of Child Health, 17(4), 195-200.

How to Cite

The impact of hypothermia in a tertiary hospital neonatal unit. (2023). South African Journal of Child Health, 17(4), 195-200.


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