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  • Blog Entries

    • By Stefan Johansson in Department of Brilliant Ideas
      Register for the 99nicu Meetup!
      In the virtual 99nicu Headquarters, we are now very busy with all preparations for our upcoming Meetup, AKA the Future of Neonatal Care conference. This third conference will take place in Copenhagen, 7-10 April, and we are already thrilled about what to come.
      Our vision for the 99nicu Community is to offer an Internet platform where neonatal staff from all over the world can share questions, experiences and expertise. Therefore, we are grateful to see, as previous years, that our conference “footprints” our global outreach and attracts a truly international group of delegates. There are currently 130 delegates coming from 30 countries, from East to West, from North to South. Naturally, we have room for You as well!
      What makes the Future of Neonatal Care conference different from other meetings?
      First of all, our principal idea is the one of postgraduate learning. To provide evidence-based neonatal care, we all need to refresh and refine our knowledge base. That is pretty obvious, as our work as neonatology professionals gravitates around know-how. IMHO, we can all improve here.
      Secondly, we believe conferences should be a place to exchange expertise and experience, and give anyone a chance to ask questions. Every 45 minute session typically includes a 30 minute lecture, to give sufficient time for discussion. Participants at our previous conferences especially enjoyed “very good discussions” and “plenty of time for questions”. We use the smartphone app sli.do (https://www.sli.do/) to allow immediate feedback from participants. Through polls and multiple-choice-questions during lectures, delegates learn from each other. Most importantly, lecturers also get an opportunity to comment directly on aspects popping up.
      Thirdly, we aim to place topics in a forward-facing context, how neonatology will develop in the future. Why do we need to know about cord clamping? How should we support breathing of preterm infants? What inotropes shall we use when? Shall discharge MRIs be standard of care for preterm infants? Why do we need to rehearse simulated scenarios?
      Great program!
      We are honored to welcome a great set of Faculty members to Copenhagen. To share a few examples:
      Barbara Schmidt and Haresh Kirpalani lead a workshop on when evidence should change the standard of care, and how to interpret non-inferiority trials Mortein Breindahl will lecture and lead a workshop on neonatal transports, together with Christian Heiring Victoria Payne will share her expertise on prevention of CLABSI David Edwards will challenge our minds about MRIs in preterm infants Liisa Lethonen and Sari Ahlqvist-Björkroth will, for the third time, run their highly appreciated workshop on Family-based care Brett Manley will tell us if/how to “Go with (high) flow” Gorm Greisen, Ulrika Ådén and Eduard Verhagen will engage in several lectures and a debate on practices and ethics around the border of viability, and parent-participation in decision-making. As you can see, we have lots to look forward to! Join us at the Future of Neonatal Care in Copenhagen 7-10 April!
      And yes, we will share take-home messages from the Future of Neonatal Care from our Twitter account @99nicu. As previous years, the hashtag will be #99nicuMeetup

    • By AllThingsNeonatal in All Things Neonatal
      It isn’t often in Neonatology these days that something truly innovative comes along. While the study I will be discussing is certainly small I think it represents the start of something bigger that we will see evolve over the coming years.
      There is no question that the benefits of mother’s own milk are extensive and include such positive outcomes as improved cognition in preterm infants and reductions in NEC. The benefits come from the immunological properties as well as the microbiome modifying nature of this source of nutrition and have been discussed many times over. Mother’s own milk contains a couple of very special things that form the basis of the reason for the study to be presented.
      What are neurotrophins and stem cells?
      Before discussing the study it is important to understand what these two classes of molecules and cells are capable of. Neurotrophins are molecules that have the capability of promoting growth and survival of neural cells. Included in this class are EGF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, glial derived neurotrophic factor, nerve growth factor, insulin-like growth factor-1, and hepatic growth factor. It turns out that not only are these found in high concentrations in breast milk but that a woman who produces breast milk at early gestational ages has higher amounts of these substances in her milk. Pretty convenient that substances promoting development of the brain and survival of brain cells increase the earlier you deliver! Stem cells are pluripotent cells meaning that they can develop into pretty much any cell type that they need to in the body. This would come in handy for example if you needed some new cells in the brain after a neurological insult. These are also present in mother’s milk and in fact can represent as much as 30% of the population of cells in breast milk.
      The Nasal Cavity and the Brain
      Clearly, the distance from the nasal cavity to the brain is relatively short. Without going into exhaustive detail it has been demonstrated in animal models that provision of medications intranasally can reach the brain without traversing the blood stream. This affords the opportunity to provide substances to the neonate through the nasal cavity in the hopes that it will reach the brain and achieve the desired effect.  When you think about it, newborns when feeding have contact between the whole nasopharyngeal cavity and milk (as evidenced by milk occasionally dripping out of the nose when feeding) so using an NG as we do in the NICU bypasses this part of the body.  Is that a good thing?
      Intranasal application of breast milk
      Researchers in Germany led by Dr. Kribs published an early experience with this strategy in their article Intranasal breast milk for premature infants with severe intraventricular hemorrhage—an observation. In this paper the strategy;follows; 2 × 0.1 ml of his or her mother’s milk 3 to 8 times a day (0.6 to 1.6 ml total per day). The breast milk was freshly expressed, which means the milk was used within 2 h after expression. The daily application started within the first 5 days of life and was continued for at least 28 days to a maximum of 105 days.
      The outcome of interest was whether the severe IVH would improve over time compared to a cohort of infants with severe IVH who did not receive this treatment. Importantly this was not a randomized trial and the numbers are small. A total of 31 infants were included with 16 receiving this treatment and 15 not. The two groups were compared with the results as follows.

      The results don’t reach statistical significance but there is a trend at the bottom of the table above to having less progressive ventricular dilatation and surgery for the same.  Again this is a very small study so take the results with a grain of salt!
      Is this practice changing?  Not yet but it does beg the question of what a properly designed RCT might look like.  The authors predict what it might look like with a sham nasal application versus fresh mother’s milk. I do wonder though if it may become a study that would be hard to recruit into as when families are approached and the potential benefit explained it may be hard to get them to say anything other than “Just give my baby the breast milk!”  Such is the challenge with RCTs so it may be that a larger retrospective study will have to do first. Regardless, be on the lookout for this research as I suspect we may see more studies such as this coming and soon!
      * Featured image from the open access paper.  (There couldn’t be a better picture of this out there!)
    • By AllThingsNeonatal in All Things Neonatal
      InSurE (Intubate, Surfactant, Extubate) has been the standard approach for some time when it comes to treating RDS.  Less Invasive Surfactant Administration (LISA) or Minimally Invasive Surfactant Administration (MIST) have been growing in popularity as an alternative technique.  More than just popular, the techniques have been shown to reduce some important short term and possibly long term outcomes when used instead of the InSurE approach.  Aldana-Aquirre et al published the most recent systematic review on the topic in  Less invasive surfactant administration versus intubation for surfactant delivery in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. They demonstrated that when looking at 6 RCTs with 895 infants, the overall results indicate that use of LISA instead of InSurE leads to a lower rate of death or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) at 36 weeks (risk ratio (RR)=0.75 (95% CI 0.59 to 0.94), p=0.01) and the need for mechanical ventilation within 72 hours of birth (RR=0.71 (0.53 to 0.96), p=0.02) or anytime during the patient stay in the NICU (RR=0.66 (0.47 to 0.93), p=0.02).  This study has been out for two years this month and yet here we are at least in my centre still performing InSurE.
        Why is that?
      One reason likely has something to do with the expression "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".  We know how to do InSurE and we are pretty good at it.  Performing the LISA technique is not just about putting a catheter in the airway and instilling surfactant.  There are several steps that need to be done in order to ensure that the surfactant goes where it is supposed to so there is training required but such training is available in videos posted on the internet or I am sure available from centres willing to share their methods.  Still it takes someone declaring we need to change before anything will happen.  The second reason for this insistence on the status quo has been the availability of only a large volume surfactant in Canada at 5 ml/kg while in European centres the volume administered was half that.  Now a low volume surfactant is available in Canada but some centres have been slow to make a switch due to comfort with the current product.  The drawback to the current product is the concern that you can't use it for LISA techniques since the centres practicing this technique use the low volume form.
      Can High Volume Be Used For Lisa?
      Researchers in London, Ontario performed a retrospective cohort study of 43 infants in their institution who underwent the MIST approach for surfactant administration in their study High-volume surfactant administration using a minimally invasive technique: Experience from a Canadian Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In 2016, London instituted a change in practice to provide MIST for infants born at ≥28 weeks and/or with a birth weight ≥ 1,000 g with respiratory distress syndrome.  Surfactant was provided over 1-3 minutes via a MAC catheter guided through the vocal cords with Magill forceps.  What I like about this study is the reproducibility of it as the authors describe very nicely how the steps were done.   What I also appreciate is the provision of sucrose and atropine prior to the procedure.  Not a rapid sequence induction but it does do something to address the risk of bradycardia and discomfort with cannulation of the trachea.  The results I think speak for themselves that this is indeed possible as 41/43 neonates underwent the procedure with successful instillation of surfactant confirmed by absence of recovered surfactant in aspirated stomach contents.

      All of these infants qualified for BLES based on an oxygen requirement on non-invasive support of 40% or more.  These patients are similar to our own in Winnipeg in terms of qualifying criteria for surfactant but perhaps a little higher tolerance of FiO2 before intubating.  Additional evidence that surfactant was indeed received was the reduction to room air in 85% of patients within 24 hours and also the need for a second dose of surfactant in only 10%.
      Aside from oxygen desaturation in about 50% during BLES administration the adverse effects were fairly limited and similar to what one would see with InSurE.
      What now?
      BLES can be administed via MIST despite concerns about the higher volume of surfactant.  What many centres need to address I suspect is that while we think we are practicing InSurE, in many cases we are not.  The goal of that procedure is to provide the surfactant over a few seconds and then get the ETT out right away.  How often does that happen though in reality?  Have you ever found yourself leaving the ETT in till the baby gets to NICU and extubating there?  Seems safer right?  What if in the elevator or hallway on the way to NICU the baby deteriorates and needs intubation?  How long does the ETT stay in? Twenty minutes, 30, 45, 60 or longer?  Thinking about that in a different way, what does that translate into in terms of number of PPV breaths?  Well at a rate of 60 breaths a minute that means 1800,  2700, 3600 and more breaths before the ETT is removed.  I have often wondered if this in itself explains why InSurE seems to be repeatedly identified as being inferior to MIST.  If you intubated, gave the surfactant and pulled the ETT out right away in all cases might the two techniques actually be equivalent.
      The question now really is how do we get past our tendencies and embrace a change in practice that by design will not allow us to delivery any positive pressure breaths?!
    • By AllThingsNeonatal in All Things Neonatal
      Recent statements by the American Academy of Pediatric’s, NICHD, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), and recommend selective approaches to mothers presenting between 22 0/7 to 22 6/7 weeks. The decision to provide antenatal steroids is only recommended if delivery is expected after 23 weeks. Furthermore the decision to resuscitate is based on an examination of a number of factors including a shared decision with the family. In practice this leads to those centres believing this is mostly futile generally not resuscitating or offering steroids while other more optimistic hospitals having higher rates of proactive (steroids and resuscitation) rates. Then there are other centres where the standard approach is proactive such as one in Uppsala, Sweden where this approach is used almost exclusively.
      What would happen then if one compared the outcome for infants born at 22 weeks between this hospital and another where a selective approach is generally offered. In this case you would have a lot of experience with resuscitating infants at 22 weeks and the other a fraction of all presenting as a few to many would receive compassionate care. This is exactly what has now happened.
      A Tale of Two Cities
      The University Children’s Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden has been compared retrospectively to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, USA (NCH) with respect to survival and outcomes for their infants born at 22 weeks. The paper by Backes CH et al entitled Outcomes following a comprehensive versus a selective approach for infants born at 22 weeks of gestation tells a very interesting story about the power of belief or faith that one can accomplish something if they set their mind to it.
      The authors examined a period from 2006-2015, dividing this time into two epochs with the first being 2006-2010 to account for differing practices and resources over time. Given that Uppsala took a proactive approach to all of their 40 live born infants during this time, it provided an opportunity to look at the 72 infants who were live born in the Ohio and examine their differences. In Ohio the approach was as follows; 16 (22%) received proactive care, 18 (25%) received inconsistent care (steroids but no resuscitation), and 38 (53%) received comfort care. In other words, although the total number of infants live born in Ohio was almost double that of Uppsala, only 16 were proactively treated in Ohio compared to all 40 in Uppsala.
      The differences in outcome are striking

      Survival in delivery room: (38/40, 95% vs 12/16, 75%; P = 0.049)
      Provision of delivery room surfactant: (40/40, 100% vs 9/16, 56%; P<0.01)
      Survival at 24 h (37/40, 93% vs. 9/16, 56%; P < 0.01).
      Survival to 1 year (21/40, 53% vs. 3/16, 19%; P < 0.05).
      Among the infants treated proactively, median age of death (17 postnatal days at range 0 h–226 days vs. 3 postnatal hours at NCH, range 0 h–10 days; P < 0.01).
      All surviving infants had BPD All infants surviving to initial hospital discharge were alive at 18 months’ postnatal age.
      With respect to long term outcome the authors note:
      “Outpatient follow-up (qualitative or non-qualitative neurodevelopmental testing) was available in 26 out of 27 infants (96%) Eleven of the 26 (42%) were unimpaired, and all unimpaired infants were in the UUCH cohort. Among the 15 infants with impairment at UUCH, 3 had mild impairment and 12 had moderate or severe impairment. All surviving infants at NCH had moderate or severe impairment.”
      A word about antenatal steroids as well. In Uppsala 85% of mothers received 2 doses of antenatal steroids vs 25% in Ohio. People sometimes question whether ANS at this age are effective. It is interesting to note that 44% of babies in the Ohio group vs 3% p<0.01 received chest compressions +/- epinephrine in the delivery room. Might this explain the better state of some of these infants at birth?
      The Power of Belief
      When I do rounds I often remark that try as we might we can’t will babies to do better. I also commonly say however that we need to be optimistic and although I am accused of seeing the world through rose coloured glasses I think there is an important lesson to be learned from this study. This comparison is really a contrast between a system that believes they can do a good thing for these families by actively promoting a proactive approach vs a system in which I imagine a reluctant approach exists even for those infants where a proactive plan is enacted. One sign of this might be that in Sweden 100% of these deliveries had a Neonatologist present vs 75% in the US. It could be due to other factors such as ability of the Neo to get in within time of the delivery however rather than a sign they didn’t feel they were needed due to futility.
      There is evidence as well that the aggressiveness of the proactive approach also differs between the two sites based on a couple observations. The first is the rate of surfactant provision in the delivery room which was 100% in Sweden but only 56% in the US. The other thing of note is the time of death for those who did not survive. The median time of death in the US was 3 hours vs 17 days in Uppsala. What does this tell us about the approaches? I would imagine (although the numbers are small) that the teams in the US were much more likely to lose hope (or faith) and withdraw early while the other centre possibility motivated by their past successes pushed forward.
      Remarkably, although one might think that the teams in Uppsala were simply creating significantly impaired survivors, 42% of the survivors were unimpaired from a developmental standpoint in follow-up. All surviving infants though from Ohio had moderate to severe impairment.
      What this story may also really be about is practice. The reality is that the team in Sweden had over twice the exposure to such infants over time. Although the number presenting at this GA was higher, the ones that actually were resuscitated and given steroids was less than half. One cannot take away though that Uppsala in the end demonstrated that a proactive approach is definitely not futile. Not only can these children survive but almost half will be developmentally intact.
      We must acknowledge as well though that since this is a retrospective study there may be factors that may have affected the results. As the saying goes “Individual results may vary”. Are the teams the same in both centres in terms of number of Neonatologists? Are there more residents caring for these infants vs fellows? Are the resources the same? What about proximity of the Neonatologist to the hospital? There are other factors such as cohesiveness of the team and communication between team members that may be influencing the results.
      In the end though, this is a story of a team that believed it could and did. Perhaps seeing the world through rose coloured glasses is not such a bad thing in the end.
    • By AllThingsNeonatal in All Things Neonatal
      In 2015 the Pediatric Endocrine Society (PES) published new recommendations for defining and managing hypoglycaemia in the newborn. A colleague of mine and I discussed the changes and came to the conclusion that the changes suggested were reasonable with some “tweaks”. The PES suggested a change from 2.6 mmol/L (47 mg/dL) at 48 hours of age as a minimum goal glucose to 3.3 mmol/L (60 mg/dL) as the big change in approach. The arguments for this change was largely based on data from normal preterm and term infants achieving the higher levels by 48-72 hours and some neuroendocrine data suggesting physiologically, the body would respond with counter regulatory hormones below 3.3 mmol/L.
      As it turned out, we were “early adopters” as we learned in the coming year that no other centre in Canada had paid much attention to the recommendations. The inertia to change was likely centred around a few main arguments.
      1. How compelling was the data really that a target of 2.6 and above was a bad idea?
      2. Fear! Would using a higher threshold result in many “well newborns” being admitted to NICU for treatment when they were really just experiencing a prolonged period of transitional hypoglycaemia.
      3. If its not broken don’t fix it. In other word, people were resistant to change itself after everyone was finally accustomed to algorithms for treatment of hypoglcyemia in their own centres.
      What effect did it actually have?
      My colleagues along with one of our residents decided to do a before and after retrospective comparison to answer a few questions since we embraced this change. Their answers to what effect the change brought about are interesting and therefore at least a in my opinion worth sharing. If any of you are wondering what effect such change might have in your centre then read on!
      Skovrlj R, Marks S and C. Rodd published Frequency and etiology of persistent neonatal hypoglycemia using the more stringent 2015 Pediatric Endocrine Society hypoglycemia guidelines. They had a total of 58 infants in the study with a primary outcome being the number of endocrine consults before and after the change in practice. Not surprisingly as the graph demonstrates the number went up.  Once the protocol was in place we went from arbitrary consults to mandatory so these results are not surprising.  What is surprising though is that the median critical plasma glucose was 2.2 mmol/L, with no significant difference pre or post (2.0 mmol/L pre versus 2.6 mmol/L post, P=0.4)  Ninety percent of the infants who were hypoglycemic beyond 72 hours of age were so in the first 72 hours.  Of these infants, 90% were diagnosed with hyperinsulinemia.  What this tells us is that those who are going to go on to have persistent hypoglycemia will demonstrate similar blood sugars whether you use the cutoff of 2.6 or 3.3 mmol/L.  You will just catch more that present a little later using the higher thresholds.  How would these kids do at home if discharged with true hyperinsulinemia that wasn’t treated?  I can only speculate but that can’t be good for the brain…
      Now comes the really interesting part!
      Of the total infants in the study,  thirteen infants or 40% had plasma glucose values of 2.6 to 3.2 mmol/L at the time of consultation after November 2015.  Think about that for a moment.  None of these infants would have been identified using the old protocol.  Nine of these infants went on to require treatment with diazoxide for persistent hyperinsulinemia. All of these infants would have been missed using the old protocol.  You might ask at this point “what about the admission rate?”. Curiously an internal audit of our admission rates for hypoglycemia during this period identified a decline in our admission rates.  Concurrent with this change we also rolled out the use of dextrose gels so the reduction may have been due to that as one would have expected admission rates to rise otherwise.  The other thing you might ask is whether in the end we did the right thing as who says that a plasma blood glucose threshold of 3.3 mmol/L is better than using the tried and true 2.6 mmol/L cutoff?
      While I don’t have a definitive answer to give you to that last question, I can leave you with something provocative to chew on.  In the sugar babies study the goal glucose threshold for the first 7 days of life was 2.6 mmol/L.  This cohort has been followed up and I have written about these studies before in Dextrose gel for hypoglycemia. Safe in the long run? One of the curious findings in this study was in the following table.

      Although the majority of the babies in the study had only mild neurosensory impairment detectable using sophisticated testing the question is why should so many have had anything at all? I have often wondered whether the goal of keeping the blood sugar above 2.6 mmol/L as opposed to a higher level of say 3.3 mmol/L may be at play.  Time will tell if we begin to see centres adopt the higher thresholds and then follow these children up.  I don’t know about you but a child with a blood sugar of 2.7 mmol/L at 5 or 6 days of age would raise my eyebrow.  These levels that we have used for some time seem to make sense in the first few days but for discharge something higher seems sensible.
  • Upcoming Events

    • 07 April 2019 Until 10 April 2019
      Our 3rd 2019 Meetup will take place at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark,  7-10 April 2019.
      While we have the dates and venue set, we have just started to brainstorm about the program.
      Share your input on topics and speakers here! As previous years, we are specifically interested in topics with a high clinical relevance, shared by dedicated speakers.
      And yes, we will keep the same format, i.e. a rather short lecture of ~30 minutes, and a ~15 minutes interactive part with polls, questions and discussions IRL and through the sli.do smartphone app.
      See you in Copenhagen!

    • 05 May 2019 12:00 AM Until 07 May 2019 12:00 PM
      Council of International Neonatal Nurses Conference 2019 to be held in Auckland, New Zealand from 5th to the 8th May.  www.coinn2019.com 
    • 17 September 2019 Until 21 September 2019
    • 18 September 2019 Until 22 September 2019
      the 3rd Congress of Joint European Neonatal Societies (jENS)
      18. Sep 2019 – 22. Sep 2019
      Maastricht, Netherlands
      URL will be posted later.
    • 20 October 2019 Until 23 October 2019
      Investing in a Healthy Future for All: Research, Education, Policy.
      Participate in the 11th DOHaD World Congress which will be held in Melbourne, Australia in October 2019.  The Congress is hosted by the DOHaD Society of Australia and New Zealand.

      The Congress theme is Investing in a Healthy Future for All: Research, Education, Policy.  The Congress will bring together basic and clinical researchers and health care professionals from around the world to address the many challenges that currently impact the health of mothers and fathers, babies in the womb, infants, children and adolescents, as well as explore solutions, interventions and policies to optimise health across the lifespan.

      Click here to reach the conference web site!