Baby Health: Device To Treat Breathing Problems In Premature Infants Developed

By Elizabeth Anderson, Parent Herald August 09, 06:37 am
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A device for premature babies that experience breathing problems   has been developed by scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The device is said to "trick" the brain into thinking that the premature baby is running and this triggers increased breathing.

This battery-powered device is around the size of a pager fitted with wires that is in turn connected to small disks to be placed on the joints of the hands and feet of premature babies, Health Site reported. When it is turned on, the disks on the joints will vibrate, which will signal to the brain that the limbs of the premature baby are in motion and this will then result to increased breathing. 

The device was first developed for those with sleep disorder and breathing problems. "We thought that if this reflex were going to work for any kind of sleep disorder with breathing problems, then premature infants would be the No. 1 target, because breathing stoppages are so common and have the potential to do so much injury," said Dr. Kalpashri Kesavan, as per a report in News-Medical.net. Kesavan is from Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA.

The researchers reportedly found that using the device for six hours at a time followed by six hours off for 24 hours decreased the number of times when premature babies' oxygen levels were low. It also decreased the times when the premature babies' had low heart rate. It was trialed on 15 premature infants with breathing problems and is planned to be tested in more babies for longer hours.

A report from EurekAlert said that the device was inspired by evolution, as the human body developed an "innate reflex" that increases the pumping of oxygen when running occurs. According to Dr. Ronald Harper from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, even newborn babies have this innate reflex.

The breathing device aims to treat apnea of prematurity, which the report describes as a pause in breathing which can last for several seconds. Premature babies have this condition because there lungs have not yet developed properly. This condition can reportedly result into damages to the brain, eyes, heart, lungs and hormonal system.

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