Incubators and innovators: technologies that change newborn care

Premature babies usually require extended hospital stays after birth, where they need to be closely monitored to ensure they get the best start in life. Caring for this uniquely disadvantaged group has always been a challenge, but new technologies mean that newborn babies receive better medical care than ever before. Chloe Kent has collected smart technologies that help keep premature babies alive and healthy.

Newborn babies have historically been underserved by the medical technology industry. Despite their unique medical needs, few devices are authorized for patients under two years of age each year.
Premature babies or premature babies are a particularly vulnerable part of the newborn population. These babies are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy and usually require special care after birth because they have not had the opportunity to fully develop and are not always ready to live outside the womb.

Fortunately, great progress has been made in neonatal care, and premature babies now receive better medical care than ever before. Medical technology has carefully studied some of the most exciting developments in the care of preterm infants.

Smart mattresses may soon help premature babies stay warm

If the body temperature is not maintained, the risk of complications for premature babies is increased, but they will quickly lose heat. Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have developed an intelligent heating system that can provide enough heat to keep premature babies warm. Active warming like this can avoid the need for more in-depth intervention and improve the baby's early development.

The mattress is made of polyurethane elastomer and foam, with uniform and precisely controlled heating characteristics. In its current prototype form, it must be precisely controlled to ensure that it provides the correct heat.

It is now expected that the prototype will be tested before any public market release. The project was completed in cooperation with Rober, a company that manufactures "zero pressure" mattresses to help bedridden people avoid pressure sores.

Incubation innovation is improving care for babies and families

Premature babies in special incubators are something most of us are familiar with, even though it is through movies and television rather than personal experience, and their internal technology is becoming more advanced every year.

Putting premature or seriously ill babies in an incubator allows them to use all their energy for growth instead of keeping warm. If a baby needs surgery, putting the baby in an incubator will improve their potential outcome because the device allows the doctor to prepare them in the best environment.

Dräger BabyLeo represents the latest neonatal care technology and is designed around the needs of babies and their families to ensure that children receive the best possible treatment.

The device is designed to keep babies warm as an incubator, radiant heater, and during the transition between closed and open care. No matter which setting is required, its connected heater, dual radiant heater and heated mattress will be synchronized to maintain a stable temperature at all times.

What makes BabyLeo unique is its family-centric function. The large variable height adjustment range helps breastfeeding parents to take care of their newborns even if they are in a wheelchair, making it easier for disabled parents and parents who are temporarily in a wheelchair when recovering from childbirth to use the device.

Newborns in BabyLeo can also open or close the lid of the incubator to breastfeed according to the program being performed, which means they will not be at risk of any interruption of treatment while feeding.

The device is also equipped with a personalized family view display that displays information about the baby's treatment status and progress in an easy-to-understand format, helping to integrate parents into the child's care.

During the pandemic, video messages keep families in touch

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many neonatal intensive care units in the UK restricted the people who can visit the baby in person. Some units only allow one parent to visit their children at a time or impose visitation time restrictions.

For parents who cannot accompany their children, vCreate allows them to keep in touch with their children. The secure video messaging service allows hospital staff to regularly send video and photo messages to parents so that they don’t miss key moments in the weeks after the child’s birth.

Parents can access these messages on any device at any time, and they can be downloaded and stored forever. The security protocol of vCreate means that parents and staff have complete control over the videos, and only they can access them.

Even before Covid-19, parents of premature babies could not be with their children 24/7, and technologies such as vCreate could help them establish more connections with the baby's care process.

The software is available to all neonatal departments in the world and is trusted by the NHS in the UK. The sponsor-led funding model of vCreate means that the service is free for all parents and free for the unit.

Medtronic paves the way for neonatal kidney treatment

Critically ill newborns are particularly prone to fluid overload (excessive fluid in the blood) and acute kidney injury. This is one of the most important things to avoid in the first few weeks, because it is estimated that the mortality rate of newborns with acute kidney injury is as high as 60%.

The US Food and Drug Administration has now approved Medtronic's Carpediem Cardiorenal Pediatric Dialysis Emergency Machine for clinical use. The Carpediem system is designed to provide continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) for neonatal patients weighing 2.5 kg to 10 kg, enabling more precise treatment and reducing risk.

CRRT is one of the most common blood purification treatments used in patients with kidney injury. The patient's blood is pumped through the blood filter to remove waste and excess fluid, thereby keeping the heart stable and minimizing the risk of hypotension.

However, CRRT for neonatal patients is not always performed under the best conditions, because traditional dialysis machines are not designed for their small bodies. Since young children have less blood, when they use machines designed for adults, the effects of errors will be amplified, thereby endangering their safety.

Medtronic is currently launching the device across the United States and was successfully deployed at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in December last year.

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