Several new technologies being used in the Cedars-Sinai Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center, are helping our smallest babies with more rapid and healthier weight gain.
Doctors have begun routinely using a device known as the Pea Pod to measure the body composition of the infants. The Pea Pod looks like a mini MRI machine. It is heated, and the baby is placed inside for approximately three minutes. Using an air displacement method, the machine senses change in pressure and can determine the percentage of body weight that is fat and the percentage that is lean body mass. With this information health care workers can then personalize the baby's nutritional supplements to help with appropriate weight gain.
Charles Simmons, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Neonatology, says, "the Pea Pod is important in helping the NICU team facilitate a healthy weight gain in the smallest infants by calculating the amount of lean mass and body fat in the infant on a daily or weekly basis."
At the same time, Cedars-Sinai is continuing a study of breast milk composition, using a device that analyzes the percentages of fat, protein and carbohydrates in breast milk. To date, health care workers have performed hundreds of analyses of breast milk.
Simmons, the Ruth and Harry Roman Chair in Neonatology in honor of Larry Baum said the information from both analyses should ultimately lead to healthier weight gain, better neurological outcomes and shorter hospital stays for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Cedars-Sinai received the Pea Pod in late spring and has just begun using it on a regular basis. There are only several in use around the country and throughout the world.
In addition to improving nutrition, Cedars-Sinai is also using new specially designed mattresses to help improve sleep patterns and head shape development in preemies. The mattress, known as Lifenest, has oval-shaped netting in the center and is intended to reduce pressure on different parts of the baby's body including the head.
Since the 1990s, when babies were placed on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the incidence of plagiocephaly -- commonly known as flat head -- have risen dramatically.
Ellen Mack, RNC, MN, neonatal clinical nurse specialist, said the babies are constantly evaluated to determine if they are sleeping well and the infants seem to be comfortable with the new mattresses. Mack said, "We are interested in these mattresses because with the lower surface tension we expect less risk of head flattening and less risk for pressure ulcers."
Cedars-Sinai is currently the only hospital in the United States with the new technologically advanced mattresses.
"Together, these new technologies are helping us reduce the babies' stay in the NICU and sending them home to their families, where they belong," Simmons said.
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