Research into new technology improves experience for parents on NICU

Research into the use of cutting-edge technology to support sick and premature babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUH) has been presented at a leading international neonatology conference in Italy.

SurePulse caps have been used on NICU, in the delivery room and operating theatre to wirelessly monitor heart rates of preterm babies. The research evaluated if it was acceptable technology using feedback from staff and recorded data. It found a good level of reliability with SurePulse and that it was helpful in assisting parents being able to bond with their babies in the delivery room and on NICU.

The research study took place from October 2022 to February 2023 and involved 31 pre-term babies and 50 members of NHS staff. Results found 86% of staff noted the heart rate signal was available all or most of the time. Most of the staff reported that the cap was easy or very easy to fit, and when breathing apparatus was needed by a baby this worked well with the cap.

The results of the research study were presented by NNUH Consultant Neonatologist Paul Clarke last month at the Joint European Neonatal Societies (JENS) in Rome. He said: “Measuring heart rate is very important in newborn babies, especially immediately after birth, as it is one of the best indicators of how well the baby is doing. The study found wireless heart rate monitoring has the potential for assisting safe and effective monitoring by staff, while allowing parents greater autonomy during those important first cuddles with their babies in the delivery room, and during skin-to-skin cuddles in the NICU.”

Helen Tritton’s daughter Leia was born by emergency caesarean-section at just 28 weeks’ gestation with very low birth weight. She was on NICU for four months and her parents were approached about being involved in research. She said: “We were happy to be involved and to help as much as we could to help improve outcomes for all babies, not just our own. The SurePulse being wireless is so beneficial to parents, as NICU is full of leads and wires and if this is something that could be reduced, then I feel it would lessen parents’ anxiety.

“The care on NICU was outstanding. All the nurses and doctors were very knowledgeable and understanding, they really wanted the best for the babies, and you could see how much they cared. They also helped us to be parents and understand our baby before bringing her home.”

She added: “I would encourage others to take part in research. It helps other babies get the best care and helps doctors understand what may or may not be best for the babies and helps to keep the care improving.”

Leia has since been discharged and is now seven months old, putting on weight and growing. Her mum added: “she’s a really happy baby always smiling and looking around.”

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