Florida State University has announced the availability of a new medical device that uses musical lullabies to help premature babies overcome one of their greatest growth hurdles.
The innovative device, known as the Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL), is now being sold to hospitals around the world through a partnership with Powers Device Technologies Inc. PAL uses music reinforcement to help infants quickly learn the muscle movements needed to suck, and ultimately feed. Research studies have shown that PAL can reduce the length of a premature infant's hospital stay by an average of five days.
"Unlike full-term infants, very premature babies come into the world lacking the neurologic ability to coordinate a suck/swallow/breathe response for oral feeding," said Jayne Standley, Florida State's Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Music Therapy and inventor of PAL. "The longer it takes them to learn this essential skill, the further behind in the growth process they fall. PAL uses musical lullaby reinforcement to speed this process up, helping them feed sooner and leave the hospital sooner."
PAL uses a specially wired pacifier and speaker to provide musical reinforcement every time a baby sucks on it correctly. The musical lullabies are gentle and pleasant to the baby, making them want to continue the sucking motion so they can hear more of the lullaby.
Clinical studies conducted by Standley at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH), University of Georgia Hospital in Athens, University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill and Women's and Children's Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., have shown that infants will increase their sucking rates up to 2.5 times more than infants not exposed to the musical reinforcement.
"It's amazing to watch how much quicker our babies are able to learn the sucking motion after they have used PAL," said Terry Stevens, a neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) nurse at TMH. "They are ready to eat sooner, they go home from the hospital earlier, they tolerate their feedings better; it's just a phenomenal improvement overall."
Originally envisioned by Standley more than a decade ago, PAL has undergone extensive testing, received a U.S. patent and been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Recognizing the significant health and economic benefits of PAL, Powers Device Technologies obtained the distribution and marketing rights and has launched a worldwide sales initiative.
"After years of research and clinical studies to prove how effective this technology is at solving developmental issues in preterm infants, we are thrilled to be working with Florida State University to bring PAL to market," said P. Kathleen Lovell, president and CEO of Powers Device Technologies. "PAL truly merges science and art to improve the lives of premature infants. It will make a huge difference in the standard of medical care preemies receive in the NICU."
As premature birth rates continue to rise (up 36 percent since the 1980s), PAL demonstrates how the power of music is being harnessed to help premature infants overcome their developmental challenges.
"Many of these babies undergo daily medical procedures that, while necessary, result in added stress, pain and anxiety for the infant," Standley said. "Using a device that actually gives them comfort while they learn an essential life skill is a valuable complement to NICU care."
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