Touching Lives - October 2009
Time-saving sensor could help save newborns
A new way of measuring the heart rate of newborn babies undergoing resuscitation could shave critical moments off existing methods and save more tiny lives.
The “Heartlight Sensor” which is being developed by a team of clinicians and engineers from The University of Nottingham with funding from Action Medical Research, is a small electronic device that can be placed on the baby’s forehead underneath a special hat to provide continuous information about the infant’s heart rate – an important indicator of how well the baby is doing.
But its key feature is that it is hands-free, leaving doctors to keep the resuscitation process going unlike current methods where doctors and midwives have to keep stopping to monitor the heart rate by picking up listening devices.
One in 10 of all newborn babies, approximately 70,000 each year in the UK, need some form of resuscitation at birth to help them breath properly and ensure their heart is beating quickly enough to pump oxygen around their bodies.
The longer it takes to get blood and oxygen moving around the baby’s body, the greater the risk of the baby developing long-term complications such as neurological disabilities and developmental impairment. The Heartlight Sensor will allow doctors to carry out resuscitation without having to keep pausing to measure the heart rate to see how well it’s working.
The sensor is still undergoing tests but if it is successful, the Heartlight could be a major breakthrough.
The Heartlight Sensor builds on the research carried out by the same team that developed the Monica AN24 fetal heart rate monitor, which is now being used routinely in clinics in Europe. This Monica device was also funded by Action Medical Research in its early research period at the University of Nottingham.