Touching Lives - February 2008
New heart rate monitor for newborns
Each year in the UK, around 70,000 babies need some form of resuscitation in the vital few minutes immediately after birth. Currently, the best way to assess a baby’s response is to measure the heart rate with a stethoscope. But this can interrupt the resuscitation procedure, losing crucial seconds and putting the baby at increased risk.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham, funded by Action Medical Research, hope the new electronic heart rate sensor they are developing will help overcome this problem. The tiny, hands-free device is placed on the baby’s forehead, underneath a specially made hat and gives a continuous recording of the baby’s heart rate. This will allow doctors to concentrate on resuscitating the baby, helping make frequent interruptions caused by using stethoscopes, a thing of the past. For babies who don’t fare so well, the monitor would be an ideal way of assessing them en-route to intensive care, giving an early warning should their condition deteriorate. Researchers think smoother resuscitation may also help reduce a baby’s chances of developing long-term complications, such as brain damage, respiratory illness and blindness. Preliminary tests of the new heart rate monitor in 25 adults have already proved successful. In this project, researchers are evaluating use of the monitor in over 90 babies. This same team, again with funding from Action Medical Research, was responsible for designing and developing a new fetal heart rate monitor, via Monica Healthcare Ltd, that offers obstetricians unrivalled insight into the working of unborn babies’ hearts and could, in the future, save hundreds of infant lives a year.