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The Latest Technological Advances in Neonatal Care, By Thanusree A

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Over the last 40 years, advances in the care of critically ill newborns have resulted in the ability to save the lives of the smallest and sickest newborns as young as 22 to 24 weeks of gestational age. The primary 28 days of life could either go perfectly fine or haywire. Premature newborns suffer the worst conditions including low birth weights, breathing complications, heart problems intraventricular hemorrhaging, and reach a condition in which their bodies can’t handle normal heat loss. However, with the help of remarkable technological advances, the survival rate for babies born at “twenty-three weeks gestational age is now at 33%” and babies born at “twenty-four weeks have a survival rate of about 65%.” These trends give tremendous hope to families and show that these survival rates are bound to sky-rocket in the coming years making families invest time and hope into neonatal care.

One of the foremost treatments that neonatal nurses use is phototherapy to treat jaundice in newborns. This jaundice is formed due to the excess of a chemical known as bilirubin. The process of phototherapy is performed by placing an infant in an incubator or a bassinet and bathing the newborn with fluorescent light. As a result, a change occurs in the infant’s bilirubin which they then discharge as stool or urine. Although the nurses expose most of the infant’s skin, this procedure is conducted extremely safely protecting the baby’s eyes, ensuring the baby has an adequate diet, and taking full charge of measuring the baby’s bilirubin level on a daily basis.

Another effective advancement in neonatal care is the artificial womb which is a very vital development to treat infants who were born too early. The artificial womb has been successfully tested on lambs through their gestation periods and this experiment was such a success that most of the lambs went on to live through adulthood. This same procedure has been repeated on premature babies and they successfully developed into healthy babies.

A HeRO is needed in everyone’s life, even in premature babies. The HeRO, or the Heart Rate Observation System, protects babies from a deadly infection which is triggering the growth of mortality events among premature infants. The HeRO synthesizes an algorithm in order to detect irregularities in heartbeats which indicates a serious infection severely affecting infants weighing less than three pounds. HeRO is a substantial component in the recovery of this infection because this infection has symptoms that are really hard to identify. In effect, HeRO enables nurse practitioners to be informed of the infection before it even occurs. With HeRo, the practitioners are prepared and can guarantee the patient that their baby will be safe from the start.

Lung infection is a major triggering issue affecting millions of infants. Researcher John Clements, an United States Army Sargent, started studying biochemistry in 1950 and this led him to discover a concept about lung infection in 1953. Clements discovered Dr. Mary Ellen Avery’s finding that “the lungs of premature infants do not produce surfactant.” Surfactant being a chemical compound that “reduces surface tension,” later triggered respiratory distress syndrome, or RDS, leading to infant mortalities. As a solution, the FDA has approved the use of an artificial surfactant in order to prevent RDS in infants.

The latest addition to neonatal care is the Pea Pod or as the manufacturer of this invention calls it: “the global benchmark for body assessments.” This device measures the body composition of the infant. Nurse practitioners are prompted by the Pea Pod throughout the process making it simple for the practitioners to carry out the process efficiently and quickly. The total process takes about seven minutes: The Pea Pod is heated, and the baby is placed inside for about three minutes. Using an air displacement method, the machine senses a change in pressure and can determine what percentage of body weight and what percentage is lean body mass. Using this information, health care workers personalize the baby’s nutritional supplements to help with appropriate weight gain.

All these complex machines and monitoring devices are designed for the unique needs of tiny babies and help reduce the babies’ stay in the NICU, sending them home to their families, where they belong.