About one in 10 babies born in the UK every year needs some form of help in the first few minutes after birth to stimulate breathing and to ensure the heart is beating properly. That adds up to a staggering 80,000 newborn babies each year, more than 200 babies every day.
A new sensor designed to help in those crucial minutes just after birth, when every second counts, promises to make a huge difference. It has the potential to prevent brain damage in newborn babies whose lungs or heart need a kick start after birth, and it might even save tiny lives, all by making resuscitation simpler and more efficient.
The new hands-free technology, developed by a team led by Professor Barrie Hayes-Gill from the University of Nottingham, allows doctors and nurses to reliably and continuously monitor a newborn baby’s heart rate to check whether resuscitation efforts are successful. It offers an alternative to more traditional approaches to monitoring heart rate, which can interfere with resuscitation, be unreliable or are prone to human error.
The sensor, called SurePulse (previously known as the HeartLight sensor), was initially developed and shown to be safe and reliable for use in newborn babies in research funded by Action Medical Research. Since these initial studies, it has undergone further development and testing and is now about to undergo final evaluation in the UK, before it can be used in hospitals.