Wrapping premature babies in plastic may increase chance of survival

An international study is looking at whether wrapping a premature baby in a clear plastic bag can reduce the likelihood of sickness or death.

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The Heat Loss Prevention Trial is a randomized control study involving over 40 neonatal intensive care units across the world.

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The study hopes to determine whether placing premature babies in plastic bags for the first hour or two of life will not only reduce heat loss but also improve their long-term health and chances of survival.

The bag, which does not cover the head, has an opening that gives health professionals access to the umbilical cord.

When babies are born, they are typically cleaned up and placed nude under a heating lamp while a number of necessary procedures are done. But premature babies have both more medical needs and less ability to control their heat.

Small pilot studies have shown that wrapping premature babies in plastic – either plastic bags or even cling wrap – can keep them from cooling down while they undergo these procedures.

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This latest trial is designed to find out if there are any long-term gains to wrapping babies. Over the five or six years it will take to gather all the data, 1,685 premature babies, born at 28 weeks gestation or lower will be randomly assigned – with the consent of their parents – to either receive standard treatment or to be put in a plastic bag with the children being reassessed at 18 months of age.

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