HERSHEY, PA-- A new, specially designed diaper that allows 87 percent of light to pass through the diaper could help the 400,000 babies born each year with jaundice. The diaper was designed by a pediatric nurse practitioner, Patricia Millner, M.Ed., CRNP. "As a nurse, I dealt with this problem for many years, and I just felt there had to be a better solution," explains Millner.
"Most hospitals either leave the jaundiced baby naked or cover the baby with traditional diapers; neither is a good way to deal with the problem. Since these newborns may go to the bathroom 8 to 10 times per day, there is a lot of nursing time spent simply cleaning the child , the isolette, and the blankets. If a traditional diaper is used, it blocks out the light," says Millner. "With this new diaper, known as BiliBottoms, the light passes through the diaper, and the baby does not need to remain under the lights as long."
Treatment for hyperbilirubinemia or jaundice involves the use of phototherapy to break down the excessive bilirubin. This requires maximum skin surface exposure. Millner adds that, typically, a baby may need light therapy for four to five days to deal with jaundice. With the use of these special diapers, that time is reduced by about a third.
Millner is currently the administrative director for pediatric ambulatory care at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. The medical center is part of the Penn State Geisinger Health System.
Millner reports that she got the idea for the diaper a number of years ago when she saw a bathing suit being advertised that allowed light to pass through the material. She says the diaper does the same thing.
About 10 percent of all babies born in the U.S. will require phototherapy for the treatment of jaundice. Millner estimates the 400,000 babies that are affected would need about 10 million diapers a year. "I have presented this idea to large diaper manufacturers but they say there simply is not a large enough market," says Millner. She also says that current diaper must be made by hand using a heat seal process. Manufactures say to adjust machinery to make the diapers would be too expensive.
The cost of the diaper is about 25 cents each or about twice the amount of a regular diaper. "By reducing the time a child has to stay in the hospital we can save hundreds of dollars per day. We hope cost will not stop hospitals from using the BiliBottoms," says Millner.
She now owns the patent rights to the product and says there is nothing else like this on the market. She hopes to be able to find a medical equipment company to help her distribute and sell the product.
These diapers are currently used at Hershey Medical Center where Millner says other nurses have expressed appreciation for the product.
"They say it is so simple and wonder why other hospitals are not using it," says Millner.
The above story is based on materials provided by Milton Hershey Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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