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5 Advances in NICU Equipment and Medical Technology for Neonatal Nurses

Baby being examined under a medical technology

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) deliver services and treatment to millions of women in the United States each year. [1] Unfortunately, many expectant mothers miss out on the vital services provided by NNPs. To mitigate potentially harmful complications, neonatal nurse practitioners conduct treatment and interventions that aim to bring services to expectant mothers in their communities.

Births that occur before the appropriate gestation period typically result in newborns with low birth weights and other health complications. [2] While not all premature births result in complications, this event can cause short- and long-term health problems. Conditions may present at birth or later in the child’s lifespan and may include some of the following ailments. Breathing complications may arise due to underdeveloped respiratory organs. Heart problems are another common condition that presents among premature children. Early births can also lead to interventricular hemorrhaging, which is bleeding in the tissue of the brain. Finally, premature births might result in a condition where newborns’ bodies cannot compensate for normal heat loss.

The following five innovations aid neonatal nurse practitioners in diagnosing and treating conditions that commonly present among premature children.

Phototherapy

Phototherapy is the most common treatment that neonatal nurse practitioners use to treat jaundice in newborns, which occurs due to an excess of a chemical called bilirubin. [3] A typical phototherapy session encompasses placing an infant in a bassinet or incubator and bathing them with florescent light. The procedure causes a change in the infant’s bilirubin, which they then excrete in their stool or urine. During this safe procedure, NPPs expose as much of the infant’s skin as possible, protect the baby’s eyes, ensure that the child maintains a proper diet, and measure the patient’s bilirubin level daily.

Another phototherapy treatment is the fiber-optic blanket or band, which caregivers wrap around the baby – typically in the home setting. Although the practice has proven successful, this method takes longer than the fluorescent light treatment.

Artificial Womb

The average gestation period for a human being is forty weeks. [4] However, nearly 30,000 infants enter the world after only twenty-six weeks. The artificial womb is an important, relatively recent, development in treating infants who were born too early. [5] Researchers report conducting a study where they successfully nurtured eight lambs through their gestation periods, mimicking the function a mother’s womb in an artificial environment. [4] The scientists revealed that the lambs developed properly and some went on to live through adulthood. Researcher Alan Flake of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reports that the lambs are normal in every way. The researchers’ next objective is to repeat this success with premature babies to help them develop in full health.

The Heart Rate Observation System (HeRO)

Infection is the leading cause of mortality events among premature infants. [6] A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) innovation allows NNPs to predict host infections twenty-four hours in advance. The Heart Rate Observation System (HeRO) uses an algorithm to detect heart beat irregularities that might indicate a major oncoming infection, a serious health threat for infants that weigh less than three pounds. It’s difficult to identify the subtle symptoms that might indicate the beginning stages of a condition. However, HeRO allows practitioners to intervene before an infection occurs.

Artificial Surfactant

Researcher John Clements discovered a concept about lung function in 1953 that would later save the lives of millions of infants. [7] Three years earlier, Clements – a United States Army Sargent – wanted to enter the biochemistry field. However, his commanding officer steered him toward physiology. His work led to a finding by Dr. Mary Ellen Avery of Harvard Medical School that the lungs of premature infants do not produce surfactant, a chemical compound the reduces surface tension. [8] At the time, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) was a leading cause of infant mortalities. [7] Since then, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved synthetic surfactant to prevent RDS among the infant population.

Pea Pod

A product overview published by medical equipment manufacturer COSMED explains that their Pea Pod density measurement apparatus uses air displacement to identify the body mass of infants who weigh roughly 2.5 to 17.5 pounds. [9] The manufacturer proclaims that Pea Pod sets the global benchmark for body mass assessments.

The entire process only takes about seven minutes. The device, which guides practitioners through the assessment process with prompts, is relatively simple to use and performs favorably when compared to techniques outlined in medical research publications.

Modern neonatal nurse practitioners promote preventative education to encourage expectant mothers to live healthy lives. NNPs also identify genetic traits that could lead to birth complications. America’s future mothers need a continuing supply of qualified neonatal nurse practitioners to promote wellness among newborns and lead the population in living healthy, satisfying lives.

Learn More

Across the country, a national shortage of primary care providers has set the stage for RNs to advance. As more states certify nurse practitioners as primary care providers, you can pursue a new avenue of nursing to fill meaningful voids in today’s health systems. At Regis College, you can earn an online post-master’s certificate to not just prepare for advancement in nursing, but to also expand services as a primary care provider.

Recommended Readings:

5 Resources for Nurse Practitioners for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
The Importance of Health Promotion for Family Nurse Practitioners
Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness

Sources:

[1] http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/medical-care-pregnancy.html
[2] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-birth/basics/complications/con-20020050
[3] http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/phototherapy-for-jaundice-in-newborns-topic-overview
[4] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/artificial-womb-lambs-premature-babies-health-science/
[5] https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15112
[6] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160510125124.htm
[7] http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/03/422620170/how-a-scientists-slick-discovery-helped-save-preemies-lives
[8] https://www.britannica.com/science/surfactant
[9] http://www.cosmedusa.com/en/products/body-composition/pea-pod-infant-body-composition”>http://www.cosmedusa.com/en/products/body-composition/pea-pod-infant-body-composition