Analysis of noise levels in the neonatal intensive care unit: the impact of clinical microsystems Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Reorganization of neonatal intensive care by introducing clinical microsystems may help to allocate nursing time more appropriately to the needs of patients. However, there is concern that cohorting infants according to acuity may enhance noise levels. This single-center study investigated the impact of reorganization of neonatal intensive care unit by implementing clinical microsystems in a Level III NICU on environmental noise. This prospective study measured 24-h noise levels over a period of 6 months during pre- and post-implementation of microsystems cohorting infants of similar acuity. Comparative analyses of the mixed acuity (i.e., before) and the cohorting (i.e., after) model were performed by creating daily profiles from continuous noise level measurements and calculating the length of exposure to predefined noise levels. Compared to baseline daytime measurements, noise levels were 3-6 dBA higher during physician handover. Noise levels were 2-3 dBA lower on weekends and 3-4 dBA lower at night, independent of the organizational model. The introduction of clinical microsystems slightly increased average noise levels for high-acuity pods (A and B) but produced a much more substantial decrease for low-acuity pods (E), leading to an overall reduction in unit-wide noise levels.    Conclusion: Our data show that noise levels are more driven by human behavior than by technical devices. Implementation of microsystems may help to reduce noise exposure in the lower acuity pods in a NICU. What is Known: • Excessive noise levels can lead to adverse effects on the health and development of premature infants and other critically ill newborns. • The reorganization of the neonatal intensive care unit following the clinical microsystems principles might improve quality of care but also affect noise exposure of staff and patients. What is New: • The transition from a mixed -acuity to cohorting model is associated with an overall reduction in noise levels, particularly in low-acuity pods requiring less nursing care. • Nevertheless, baseline noise levels in both models exceeded the standard permissible limits.


  • Fusch, Gerhard
  • Mohamed, Saber
  • Bakry, Ahmad
  • Li, Edward W
  • Dutta, Sourabh
  • Helou, Salhab el
  • Fusch, Christoph

publication date

  • March 2024