Evaluation Background: Infant Radiant Warmers

May 5, 2021 | Evaluations & Guidance


Here's background for our Evaluations of infant radiant warmers, outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. Learn how the technology is used, which specs are important, and what factors we test for. Also review our latest product ratings and ECRI's data describing hospitals' interest in each vendor.

The primary purpose of an infant radiant warmer is to provide heat to an infant at risk of hypothermia due to an underdeveloped thermoregulatory system. Infant warmers of all types have significantly reduced infant mortality since the late 1800s, increasing average life expectancy. They are used in birthing rooms and in acute infant care areas such as neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

NICU radiant warmers provide a long-term bed surface for an infant.

  1. Even when supplemental heat is not necessary to maintain temperature, its use has benefits: It reduces the NICU patient's stress, and it improves outcomes by allowing the energy intake of the infant to be spent on development instead of maintaining temperature.

  2. Physiologic monitoring and respiratory support features are less important in NICU warmers than they are in warmers used in birthing rooms. In the NICU, the physiologic monitoring and respiratory support requirements are beyond what can be accommodated by a radiant warmer. While warmers may be relied upon as an "all-in-one" solution in birthing rooms, they often serve fewer functions in the NICU, where dedicated equipment is used for ancillary support.

  3. Radiant warmers provide better access than enclosed incubators and may be preferable when humidity control is not as important.

  4. Phototherapy lamps are often integrated into or affixed to the unit to control bilirubin levels.

  5. Weight scales are commonly incorporated into radiant warmers. Tracking weight without the need to transfer the infant to a separate scale has become a common function.

  6. Some models offer an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which may be desired to facilitate transport to procedure areas such as the OR or diagnostic testing areas. Recent battery developments show promise that transports at full power may be possible for typical durations, including...

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