Background: The physiological benefit of parent-infant skin-to-skin contact (SSC) is uncertain for preterm infants with ventilatory support. We aimed to investigate whether SSC stabilizes the respiration compared to incubator care in mechanically ventilated preterm infants.
Methods: The prospective observational study was performed in Turku University Hospital, Finland. Preterm infants were eligible if they were born before 36 weeks gestation and received respiratory support with either invasive or non-invasive neurally adjusted ventilatory assist (NAVA). SSC was applied as soon as possible after birth. Respiratory variables were collected from the ventilator log data, and SSC episodes were compared with matched control periods during incubator care.
Results: A total of 167 episodes of SSC were recorded from 17 preterm infants: 138 episodes during invasive NAVA and 29 episodes during non-invasive NAVA. During invasive NAVA, peak electrical activity of the diaphragm (Edi), minimum Edi, respiratory rate, time on backup ventilation, peak inspiratory pressure, and mean airway pressure were significantly lower in SSC than in incubator care. During non-invasive NAVA, peak Edi, minimum Edi, time on backup ventilation, and peak inspiratory pressure were significantly lower in SSC than in incubator care.
Conclusions: SSC stabilized and improved the respiratory physiology in mechanically ventilated preterm infants.
Impact: Skin-to-skin contact reduced work of breathing compared to incubator care in mechanically ventilated preterm infants. Skin-to-skin contact reduced the need for backup ventilation during neurally adjusted ventilatory assist in preterm infants. Skin-to-skin contact among ventilated preterm infants was not only safe but also stabilized and improved their respiratory physiology.