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Research project: An investigation into neonatal skin care practices and their relationships to skin barrier function - Dormant - Dormant

Currently Active: 

The overall aim of this project is to investigate current neonatal skin care regimens within neonatal units in the UK and based upon the findings, then to go on to examine the effects of such practices on the barrier function of the skin of infants within the neonatal environment.


This project will address gaps that exist in the evidence base for this fundamental area of neonatal care with the ultimate aim of identifying and formulating guidelines for best practice to improve neonatal skin care.

Main question(s)

  • To review the available evidence on neonatal skin care regimens and the effect of these upon the infant's skin barrier function.
  • To investigate the nature of common skin care regimens employed within neonatal units within the UK.
  • To determine the effect of these skin care regimens on the infants skin barrier function using biophysical techniques with the infant as his/her own control.
  • To determine the effect of these skin care regimens on the clinical condition of the infants skin using a visual assessment tool with cross comparison using an erythema-meter with the infant as his/her own control.
  • To identify the ideal skin care regimen and to formulate guidelines for best practice.
  • To inform nursing practice by the dissemination of the evidence generated in peer reviewed journals, conferences, and incorporation into local / national care guidelines.


Phase 1  A survey of current skin care regimens in neonatal units within the UK

This phase is designed to: 

  • Identify current skin care regimens in practice and critically review the evidence to support them.
  • Identify areas of practice with no firm evidence base, or those that are potentially harmful.
  • Inform the design of Phase 2 of the study.
  • Ensure that research resources are used effectively.

For this phase a survey has been undertaken with a questionnaire being constructed and piloted within the South East London Neonatal Network. Following MREC approval it was distributed to the Senior Nurses of all 237 neonatal units within the UK as listed annually in the Directory of Special Care Units (CMA Medical Data). This will represent the total population of neonatal units operating at Level 1, 2 and 3, classified according to the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) Guidelines. All phase 1 data has now been collected and is undergoing analysis.

Phase 2 - A clinical study of skin care regimens on neonatal skin barrier function

This phase is designed to:

Quantify the effect of skin care regimens on neonatal skin barrier function.

  • Explore the relationship between specific skin care regimens and neonatal skin barrier function
  • Identify the regimen that causes the least disruption to skin barrier function.
  • Provide evidence to develop neonatal skin care practice nursing guidelines.

Phase 2 will follow a clinical trial design. A power calculation will determine the sample size required. These will be based upon some pilot data and a previous study undertaken by the Chief Investigator. Infants receiving care within the neonatal unit, whose parent(s) have given consent will be recruited and randomly allocated to receive one of the interventions identified as being most commonly practised from Phase 1 of the study as their routine skin care regimen. 

Project team

Kathryn Getliffe, David Voegeli

Project funder

Smith and Nephew Foundation  2008

Related research groups

Active Living and Rehabilitation
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