Hope for newborns from gadget to monitor breathing

Wednesday October 10 2018

A new device will replace this bag-valve-mask

A new device will replace this bag-valve-mask resuscitator that is commonly used to assist infants with breathing problems. PHOTO | NMG 

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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A new device — Augmented Infant Resuscitator — has been developed to revive newborn babies suffering breathing distress.

The device is in response to one of the major causes of neonatal death: birth asphyxia, defined as the baby’s inability to breathe on its own at birth.

This can be due to breathing problems related to underdeveloped lungs or even infections, which doctors cannot always predict.

The Augmented Infant Resuscitator — a result of a partnership between Philips, and researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda, and MIT — helps to safely resuscitate suffocated or asphyxiated newborns. It helps to measure and help regulate the airflow delivered to the baby.

According to the research team behind the device, the Philips Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) connects to nearly all brands of manual bag-valve-mask resuscitators.

Manual efforts to revive babies who are suffocating are often unsuccessful.

This is particularly evident in resource-poor areas that may lack access to expensive equipment. In such cases, clinicians may give too much air or too little, too fast or too slow, with the maximum pressure on the baby’s airways exceeding the required levels, and this poorly regulated process frequently ends often up injuring the child.

The AIR gadget monitors whether the ventilation provided is appropriate by measuring airflow to the chest and resultant pressure.

The warnings provided will address issues such as a loose mask seal, signs of a blocked airway, improper ventilation rate, and breaths that are too powerful.

In research published by the Ministry of Health, neonatal deaths in Kenya stand at 22 in every 1,000 births. Also, 75 per cent of these deaths occur within the first seven days of the infant’s life.

In Uganda, a Unicef study carried out in 2015 estimated that birth asphyxia or lack of breathing at birth and trauma contributed to 28.6 per cent of total neonatal deaths. Approximately 9,500 premature infants die annually in Tanzania, or approximately one per hour.