Objectives. In 1990, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committeee on Injury and Poison Prevention issued a policy statement which recommended that all infants born at less than 37 weeks gestational age be monitored in their car seat before discharge to identify infants at risk for apnea associated with car seat use. The objective of this report is to summarize the experience of a community hospital in implementing this recommendation, including: education of health professionals about the problem and its management, development of an effective hospital policy and procedure for testing at-risk infants, overcoming logistical difficulties for nursing staff who implement the policy, overcoming liability concerns, and summarizing the clinical results which we observed during a 15-month period.

Methods. MetroWest Medical Center, Framingham Union Campus is a community hospital with a Level II Neonatal Unit with approximately 2200 deliveries annually. Hospital procedures and policies were developed to implement the AAP policy for safe transportation of premature infants. Consequently, infants less than 37 weeks gestation at birth were monitored for a 90-minute observation period for oxygen saturation, apnea, or bradycardia in the car seat that they would be going home in from the nursery.

Results. Policies and procedures for car seat monitoring were instituted successfully during 15-month period. Sixteen of 87 (18.4%) monitored infants 26 to 36 weeks gestation had abnormal results. In addition, one 37-week gestational newborn who was monitored because of duskiness during feeds also became apneic and bradycardic in the car seat.

Conclusions. A car seat monitoring program can be incorporated effectively into a Level II community hospital nursery discharge plan provided that appropriate medical staff policies, nursing procedures, and administrative support to deal with the logistics of the program is established. Our monitoring results are consistent with previous reports that premature infants are at risk of desaturation in a car seat. In addition, we have demonstrated that a full-term neonate may also be at risk if other evidence of desaturation (eg, duskiness during feedings) is observed.

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