Therapeutic bed helps prevent brain damage in preemies

March 29, 2021
Therapeutic bed helps prevent brain damage in preemies

A pulsating bed in an incubator is suggested to help premature babies feel more secure, as the bed simulates the caress of a parent holding the baby. Aptly named the “Calmer” baby bed, it was designed by University of British Columbia (UBC) Drs. Liisa Holsti and Karon Maclean, a professor in the department of occupational science and therapy and a nursing professor, respectively.

According to the Canadian Drs., both adults and babies tend to breathe more shallowly when psychologically stressed. This decreases the amount of air taken in, which in turn decreases the oxygen level in their bloodstream, and less oxygen reaches the brain.

When a baby is born premature, it’s vitally important that the infant’s still-developing brain receive enough oxygen, otherwise brain damage may occur if the baby continues to breathe shallowly, even in an incubator.

The Calmer baby bed rises and falls gently to mimic both the respiration and heartbeat of a parent holding the baby: in a clinical trial performed at the neonatal intensive care units (NICU) of the British Columbia Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, 16 premature babies were held by a caregiver (and given a pacifier) while having a routine blood sample drawn, while 12 others were instead placed on the Calmer as the same procedure was performed. When the infants’ brain oxygen levels were measured immediately afterwards, they were found to be the same for both groups, suggesting that use of the Calmer is as effective as actually being held.

While it would be best if a parent or other caregiver is able to actually do so themselves, this isn’t always possible in busy NICUs – particularly during the current pandemic, when visitation to such areas is strictly limited.

“We were very pleased that our preliminary trial results showed that Calmer has the potential to benefit these infants whose brains are particularly vulnerable to pain and stress,” said Holsti.

“We are expanding our evaluation of this device in morerigorous real-world conditions, and we’re in the process of redesigning it to be used in low- and middle-income countries.”

Category: Education, Features

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