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Gift to enhance the future care of our most fragile babies

Gift to enhance the future care of our most fragile babies

Our most vulnerable babies may in the future get an even better start to life and have fewer long-term health problems due to the kindness of The Neonatal Trust New Zealand and ICAP New Zealand.

The Trust has gifted Wellington Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) a specialised piece of equipment that will be used to help monitor baby health and for collecting data for neonatal research being led by Dr Max Berry, a Senior Lecturer in Paediatrics & Child Health at the University of Otago, Wellington.

The bioamplifier was bought by funds donated to The Neonatal Trust New Zealand by ICAP New Zealand, who raised the money during its global charity day.

Dr Max Berry, who is also a Consultant Neonatologist with Capital & Coast District Health Board, says the equipment will be used to monitor NICU’s most premature babies and the data collected will assist several neonatal studies that aim to enhance neonatal care.

This includes a new study that will look at different ways of measuring blood pressure and brain oxygen levels in premature babies in their first few days. The goal of the research is to ultimately help in the creation of new strategies that improve the brain development of these babies.

It’s also the first time a bioamplifier will be used in a neonatal research project in New Zealand.

Dr Berry says this equipment is important because it will give clinical researchers more detailed recordings of the babies’ heart rate, blood pressure and brain oxygenation levels.

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“It adds another level of detail to conventional monitoring and gives additional insights into the factors that put premature babies at greater risk of developing medical conditions as children and adults,” she says.

People who are born prematurely are at an increased risk of having learning problems and of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. Women who are born prematurely are also more at risk of complications in their own pregnancies.

Dr Berry says the factors or mechanisms that link premature birth with later in life health issues were not fully understood.

“We need to understand these associations so that we can identify those with the greatest risk before problems arise, and ultimately develop strategies to ensure that individuals born preterm enjoy the same quality of adult life as those born at full term,” she says.

Dr Berry says neonatal medicine is an incredibly dynamic field that is being constantly refined and improved.

“We have come a really long way but what we know at present is just the tip of the iceberg; there is still so much to do.”

The Neonatal Trust Executive Director Neil O’Styke says “the care provided by the neonatal team is incredible and it’s great that, along with the support from great partners such as ICAP, we can play a part in this”.

“Having an environment where the very best care for our most fragile babies is both delivered and developed is amazing. It makes sense that the skilled and experienced NICU staff who care for our most vulnerable babies have access to the best equipment.

As the care delivered changes through research learnings, we want to ensure that the equipment needed to monitor and support the babies is available,” says Mr O’Styke.

In January the Neonatal Trust also provided Wellington Hospital’s NICU with five new Massimo machines, which monitor and record infant oxygen levels.

Almost 10 per cent of all babies born in New Zealand each year are born prematurely and more than 1000 of them are admitted to Wellington Hospital’s NICU. While the majority of babies who are admitted to the Unit are premature (born before 37 weeks gestation), the unit also caters for full-term babies who require specialist intensive care.


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