An infant incubator is used to maintain baby’s body temperature at 37oC. Recent days incubators are present in all pediatric hospitals, neonatal units and birth centers. Therefore, it is an apparatus, which provides a suitable environmental condition for newborn babies. It provides a closed and controlled environment for babies. It circulates heated air over the baby skin. Later the heat is absorbed into baby’s body due to tissue conduction and blood convention methods. Always, skin and core temperatures should be maintained at same level with only minor variations. It is most commonly used for preterm (premature) babies and for newborn babies with illness.
Why Do We Need Infant Incubators?
Always the core body temperature is maintained at 37oC. When the temperature rises or falls below the reference value, it leads to either Hyperthermia or Hypothermia respectively. At these two conditions, brain does not receive appropriate amount of blood leading to illness and organ failure. The babies born before they are due to be born are termed as pre-term babies. They have undeveloped nervous system, so they do not have sufficient energy for temperature regulation on their own. Hence, an incubator maintains their temperature.
Functions of Incubators
Incubators help to control temperature, humidity and oxygenation of air. Oxygenation is increased due to nasal tubes. Since, incubators are closed, they protect babies from infection, air drafts and bacteria from external factors. Inside incubators feeding is done through intravenous tubes. They also have a portable oxygen machine, which is used when babies are transported from one place to another.
Working of Infant Incubator
In incubators, light bulbs are used to heat air at bottom part of incubator. Air passes over the container that has evaporated water and increases humidity. Then the warm and humid air flows up to the baby compartment. A thermostat is present at exit hole that compares air temperature with desired temperature. When it’s too high light bulb turns off, when low bulb is turned on.
Incubators has mattress enclosed with plastic canopy where the babies are made to lay down. Below the mattress, a heater element is present, which is used to increase the incubator temperature. Near the heater, there is a motor driven fan to draw in fresh air through filters. They are blown past the heater to warm the air. Air is directed through few slots above the mattress and they are circulated around. Temperature sensors are present to monitor the air temperature. Air temperature is under control when current to the heater is controlled. A skin temperature probe is present to monitor the baby’s skin temperature. Oxygen inlet connection is used to provide supplementary oxygen that mixes with fresh air that comes in via filters. Water baths are used to increase the humidity (passive humidification) or in active humidification, water is dripped on a heated element. Arm ports are the access doors to care babies when inside incubators. Babies are viewed through plexiglass. Hygrometers are used to measure the quantity of humidity inside incubator. They are also responsible to send in warm and humidified air to babies lungs.
Parameter measured inside Infant Incubator
- ECG monitoring
- Monitoring of skin
- Neonatal jaundice
- Temperature and humidity monitoring