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  • Blog Entries

    • By AllThingsNeonatal in All Things Neonatal
      As the saying goes, sometimes less is more.  In recent years there has been a move towards this in NICUs as the benefits of family centred care have been shown time and time again.  Hi tech and new pharmaceutical products continue to develop but getting back to the basics of skin to skin care for many hours and presence of families as an integral team member have become promoted for their benefits.  The fetus is a captive audience and hears the mother's heart beat and voice after the development of hearing sometime between 24-26 weeks gestational age.  This is a normal part of development so it would stand to reason that there could be a benefit to hearing this voice especially after hearing has developed and the fetus has grown accustomed to it.  Hospital including my own have developed reading programs for our patients and some companies have developed speakers in isolettes designed to limit the maximum decibel to 45 but allowing parents to make recordings of their voices.  Music may be played through these speakers as well but today we will focus on the benefit of voice.
      Could reading to your baby reduce apnea of prematurity?
      This is the question that Scala M et al sought to answer in their paper Effect of reading to preterm infants on measures of cardiorespiratory stability in the neonatal intensive care unit.  This was a small prospective study of the impact of parental reading on cardiorespiratory stability in preterm NICU infants. Eighteen patients were enrolled who were born between 23-31 weeks gestation.  The study was carried out when the babies were between 8-56 days old at a mean postnatal age of 30 weeks. Each patient served as their own control by comparing episodes of oxygen desaturation to <85% during pre-reading periods (3 hours and 1 hour before) to during reading and then 1 hour post reading.  Parents were asked to read or create a recording lasting a minimum of 15 min but up to 60 min of recorded reading.  The parents were offered a standard set of books that had a certain rhythm to the text or could choose their own.  Recorded reading was played for infants up to twice per day by the bedside nurse. While it was small in number of patients the authors point out that the total exposure was large with 1934 min of parental bedside reading analyzed (range 30–270 min per infant, mean 123, median 94 min).  Patients could be on respiratory support ranging from ventilators to nasal cannulae.
      Was it effective?
      It certainly was. I should mention though that the authors excluded one patient in the end when it was found that they failed their hearing screen.  Arguably, since the infant could not have benefited from the intervention effect this makes sense to me.  As shown from table 3 there was a statistical reduction in desaturation events during the reading period which was sustained in terms of a downward trend for one hour after the intervention was completed.  In case you are asking was the difference related to oxygen use the answer is no.  There was no difference in the amount of oxygen provided to patients.  While the events were not eliminated they were certainly reduced.  The other point worth mentioning is that there appears to be a difference between live (through open portholes) vs prerecorded reading (through a speaker in the isolette).

      Now for a little controversy
      Does source of the reading matter?  The authors found that maternal had a greater effect than paternal voice.  As a father who has read countless books to his children I found this a little off-putting.  As a more objective critic though I suppose I can buy the biologic plausibility here.  I suspect there is an independent effect of voice having a positive impact on development.  If we buy the argument though that the voice that the fetus has most been accustomed to is the mothers, then the findings of an augmented effect of the maternal voice over fathers makes some sense.  I will have to put my ego aside for a moment and acknowledge that the effect here could be real.
      There will no doubt need to be larger studies done to drill down a number of questions such as what is the ideal type of reading, duration, rhythmic or non etc but this is a great start.  I also think this falls into the category of "could this really be a bad thing?".  Even if in the end no benefit is shown to this type of intervention, the potential for family bonding with their preterm infant alone I think is cause for embracing this intervention.
      Lastly, with the move to single patient rooms there is one study that demonstrated the isolation encountered from infrequent contact with their newborn can have a long lasting effect on development.  The article by Pineda RG et al Alterations in brain structure and neurodevelopmental outcome in preterm infants hospitalized in different neonatal intensive care unit environments. had a mean parental visitation of 19 +/- 19 hours a week or a little over 2 hours a day but with a very large standard deviation meaning many infants had almost no visitation.  The message here is that while quiet is good for infant development, too much can be a bad thing.  Maybe live reading or even recordings are a way around that.
    • By AllThingsNeonatal in All Things Neonatal
      Much has been written on the topic of cord clamping.  There is delayed cord clamping of course but institutions differ on the recommended duration.  Thirty seconds, one minute or two or even sometimes three have been advocated for but in the end do we really know what is right?  Then there is also the possibility of cord milking which has gained variable traction over the years.  A recent review was published here.
      Take the Guessing Out of the Picture?
      Up until the time of birth there is very little pulmonary blood flow.  Typically, about 10% of the cardiac output passes through the lungs and the remained either moves up the ascending aorta or bypasses the lungs via the ductus arteriosus.  After birth as the lung expands, pulmonary vascular resistance rapidly decreases allowing cardiac output to take on the familiar pattern which we all live with.  Blood returning from the systemic venous circulation no longer bypasses the lung but instead flows through pulmonary capillaries picking up oxygen along the way.  One can imagine then that if a baby is born and the cord is clamped right away, blood returning from the systemic circulation continues to bypass the lung which could lead to hypoxemia and reflexive bradycardia.  This has been described previously by Blank et al in their paper Haemodynamic effects of umbilical cord milking in premature sheep during the neonatal transition.
      A group of researchers from the Netherlands published a very interesting paper Physiological-based cord clamping in preterm infants using a new purpose-built resuscitation table: a feasibility study this month.  The study centres around a resuscitation table called the Concord that is brought to the mother for resuscitation after birth.  The intervention here was applied to infants 26 to 35 weeks gestational age.  The cord was clamped after each of the following was achieved for an infant indicating successful transition with opening of the lung and establishment of an FRC.
      1. Establishment of adequate breathing (average tidal volume ≥4 mL/kg) on CPAP.  They used a mask capable of measuring expired tidal volumes.
      2. HR above 100 bpm
      3. SpO2 above 25th percentile using FiO2 <0.4
      In this way, the cord was only clamped once the baby appeared to have physiologically made the transition from dependence on umbilical cord blood flow to ventilation perfusion matching in the lung.  Although 82 mothers consented only 37 preterm infants were included in the end.  Exclusion criteria were signs of placental abruption or placenta praevia, signs of severe fetal distress determined by the clinician and the necessity for an emergency caesarean section ordered to be executed within 15 min.  This really was a proof of concept study but the results are definitely worth looking at.
      How Did These Babies Do?
      There are many interesting findings from this study. The mean time of cord clamping was 4 minutes and 23 seconds (IQR 3:00 – 5:11).  Heart rate was 113 (81–143) and 144 (129–155) bpm at 1 min and 5 min
      after birth.  Only one patient developed bradycardia to <60 BPM but this was during a mask readjustement.  The main issue noted as far as adverse events was hypothermia with a mean temperature of 36.0 degrees at NICU admission.  Almost 50% of infants had a temperature below 36 degrees.  Although the authors clearly indicate that they took measures to prevent heat loss it would appear that this could be improved upon!
      What stands out most to me is the lengthy duration of cord clamping.  This study which used a physiologic basis to determine when to clamp a cord has demonstrated that even at 1 minute of waiting that is likely only 1/4 of the time needed to wait for lung expansion to occur to any significant degree.  I can’t help but wonder how many of the patients we see between 26-35 weeks who have a low heart rate after delivery might have a higher heart rate if they were given far more time than we currently provide for cord clamping.
      I can also see why cord milking may be less effective.  Yes, you will increase circulating blood volume which may help with hemodynamic stability but perhaps the key here is lung expansion.  You can transfuse all the blood you want but if it has nowhere to go just how effective is it?
      As we do more work in this area I have to believe that as a Neonatal community we need to prepare ourselves for the coming of the longer delay for cord clamping.  Do we need to really have the “Concord” in every delivery or perhaps it is time to truly look at durations of 3-4 minutes before the team clamps the cord.
      Stay tuned!
    • By AllThingsNeonatal in All Things Neonatal
      It has to be one of the most common questions you will hear uttered in the NICU.  What were the cord gases?  You have a sick infant in front of you and because we are human and like everything to fit into a nicely packaged box we feel a sense of relief when we are told the cord gases are indeed poor.  The congruence fits with our expectation and that makes us feel as if we understand how this baby in front of us looks the way they do.
      Take the following case though and think about how you feel after reading it.  A term infant is born after fetal distress (late deceleration to as low as 50 BPM) is noted on the fetal monitor.  The infant is born flat with no heart rate and after five minutes one is detected.  By this point the infant has received chest compressions and epinephrine twice via the endotracheal tube.  The cord gases are run as the baby is heading off to the NICU for admission and low and behold you get the following results back; pH 7.21, pCO2 61, HCO3 23, lactate 3.5.   You find yourself looking at the infant and scratching your head wondering how the baby in front of you that has left you moist with perspiration looks as bad as they do when the tried and true cord gas seems to be betraying you.  To make matters worse at one hour of age you get the following result back; pH 6.99, pCO2 55, HCO3 5, lactate 15.  Which do you believe?  Is there something wrong with the blood gas analyzer?
      How Common Is This Situation
      You seem to have an asphyxiated infant but the cord gas isn’t following what you expect as shouldn’t it be low due to the fetal distress that was clearly present?  It turns out, a normal or mildly abnormal cord gas may be found in asphyxiated infants just as commonly as what you might expect.  In 2012 Yeh P et al looked at this issue in their paper The relationship between umbilical cord arterial pH and serious adverse neonatal outcome: analysis of 51,519 consecutive validated samples. The authors sampled a very large number of babies over a near 20 year period to come up with a sample of 51519 babies and sought to pair the results with what they knew of the outcome for each baby. This is where things get interesting. 
      When looking at the outcome of encephalopathy with seizures and/or death you will note that only 21.71% of the babies with this outcome had a gas under 7.00.  If you include those under 7.10 as still being significantly distressed then this percentage rises to 34.21%.  In other words almost 66% of babies who have HIE with seizures and/or death have a arterial cord pH above 7.1!  The authors did not look at encephalopathy without seizures but these are the worst infants and almost 2/3 have a cord gas that you wouldn’t much as glance at and say “looks fine”
      How do we reconcile this?
      The answer lies in the fetal circulation.  When an fetus is severely stressed, anaerobic metabolism takes over and produces lactic acid and the metabolic acidosis that we come to expect.  For the metabolites to get to the umbilcal artery they must leave the fetal tissues and enter the circulation.  If the flow of blood through these tissues is quite poor in the setting of compromised myocardial contractility the acids sit in the tissues.  The blood that is therefore sitting in the cord at the time of sampling actually represents blood that was sent to the placenta “when times were good”.  When the baby is delivered and we do our job of resuscitating the circulation that is restored then drives the lactic acid into the blood stream and consumes the buffering HCO3 leading to the more typical gases we are accustomed to seeing and reestablishing the congruence our brains so desire.  This in fact forms the basis for most HIE protocols which includes a requirement of a cord gas OR arterial blood gas in the first hour of life with a pH < 7.00.
      Acidosis May Be Good For the Fetus
      To bend your mind just a little further, animal evidence suggests that those fetuses who develop acidosis may benefit from the same and be at an advantage over those infants who don’t get acidemia.  Laptook AR et al published Effects of lactic acid infusions and pH on cerebral blood flow and metabolism.  In this study of piglets, infusion of lactic acid improved cerebral blood flow.  I would suggest improvement in cerebral blood flow of the stressed fetus would be a good thing.  Additionally we know that lactate may be used by the fetus as additional metabolic fuel for the brain which under stress would be another benefit.  Finally the acidemic fetus is able to offload O2 to the tissues via the Bohr effect.  In case you have forgotten this phenomenon, it is the tendency for oxygen to more readily sever its tie to hemoglobin and move into the tissues.
      I hope you have found this as interesting as I have in writing it.  The next time you see a good cord gas in a depressed infant, pause for a few seconds and ask yourself is this really a good or a bad thing?
    • By Stefan Johansson in Department of Brilliant Ideas
      Since the October issue of Neonatology Today, I and @Francesco Cardona will alternate in writing a column where we will share bits and pieces from the 99nicu community, mixed with more general reflections. This column is the start of a extended partnership between 99nicu and Neonatology Today. 
      In case you don't know, Neonatology Today is a peer-reviewed monthly newsletter that is available free of charge, and has a mission to provide timely news and information the care of newborns and the diagnosis and treatment of premature and/or sick infants. Subscribe here!
      Maybe you have already read my first column in (here on page 46-47), but I also want to share my text here, on why 99nicu has a great future despite that there is "an app for everything"  
      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
      "As a starting point, I would like to share some background for those who are not familiar with 99nicu. The online community 99nicu.org started off with a few colleagues in my kitchen in late 2005. This was a time before the social web was on everyone’s fingertip. Instead, Internet-savvy people gathered on so-called Bulletin Boards or Discussion Forums, often niched to specific topics or interests and managed by enthusiasts. Being an active member of a computer forum, I got the idea to bring neonatal staff together online. After plenty of hours, fiddling with software and web stuff, we opened the 99nicu web site on May 11, 2006. But what did the “99” stand for? That people would gather to discuss 99% of neonatology, and 1% of everything else
      Since the launch in 2006, I think we have reached the main purpose: to create an international neonatal community for sharing experience and expertise, not restricted by geographical boundaries. We now count more than 7.000 registered members. Although the majority are doctors, members represent all neonatal staff categories. Moreover, our server gets a lot of traffic! During the latest 3-month period, there were 42.000 pageviews, from all over the world (Fig 1.)
      What’s the future of online forums, when there’s an app for everything? Will 99nicu be out-competed by the big players of the social web? Services like WhatsApp and Twitter do offer great tools for discussions in closed and open groups. But still, I believe that niched forums will outlive social media platforms when it comes to professional content. For two principal reasons. First, I assume that professionals will want to keep out of the business model of the social media companies, where free-of-charge turns users into data-for-sale (“if it is free online, you are the product”). Second, social media companies, despite smart algorithms, will not bring enough focus to your feeds. If you are primarily interested in neonatal medicine, your content will still be diluted with images of pets and food plates. On the contrary, “old-school” communities are comprehensible and focused. You know why you are there, you know why other people are there, and you know what content to expect.
      While 99nicu gravitates around the website, we have also realized the potential in meeting up IRL. Getting to know each other online is fantastic, but personal meetings will always be very powerful for networking and sharing. That is why we are now preparing our third conference “Future of Neonatal Care.” At our previous conference in Vienna, we had 150 delegates from 33 countries. When we meet up in Copenhagen, 7-10 April 2019, we hope to bring more than 250 people together, from an even larger number of countries.
      Interested in joining us in Copenhagen? Keep updated on 99nicu.org!

      Figure 1 The geographical distribution of 42.000 pageviews on 99nicu.org during 1 July – 30 Sept 2018. The color coding represent the number of pageviews.
    • By Stefan Johansson in Department of Brilliant Ideas
      We now have 13 confirmed speakers for the Copenhagen Meetup 7-10 April next year!
      Generally, we'll stick to the successful format we have had at the previous meetings: 45 min slots split into a 30 min lecture and a 15 min discussion. We'll continue to use the sli.do smartphone app to facilitate the discussion and allow every delegate to share questions and comments.
      In addition to the lecture program 7-9 April, we are also planning workhops and mini-symposia on the 10th of April. We'll share more info about those soonish, but if you want ONE cliff-hanger... we plan one symposium about the infant microbiome etc-etc  
      Confirmed topics and speakers
      Neonatal transports - safe and easy, Morten Breindahl (Sweden) Treating pain in neonates, Karel Allegaert (Belgium) How to improve quality on the NICU, Joseph Kaempf (US) Hyperglycemia - how to manage and why, Kathryn Beardsal (UK) Why we should rehearse simulated scenarios, Ruth Gottstein (UK) Go with the (high) flow, Brett Manley (Australia) News in the updated ESPGHAN guidelines, Nadja Haiden ( Austria) Prevention of BPD, Christian Poets (Germany) The many inotropes - what to use when, Yogen Singh (UK) Cord Clamping, 1.0 and 2.0, Ola Andersson (Sweden) When NEC rates persist , despite everything done “Right”, Ravi Patel (US) Outcomes in infants surviving at the limit of viability, Ulrika Ådén (Sweden) Ethical decision making around the limit of viability, Gorm Greisen (Denmark)
  • Upcoming Events

    • 14 November 2018 Until 17 November 2018
      The XII International Conference on Kangaroo Mother Care will take place 14-17 November 2018, in Bogota, Columbia.
      The workshop (November 14-15, 2018), for about 300 participants working on KMC implementation at country level. The objective is to present, discuss in detail and share experiences that will lead to a better understanding of the difficulties and needs for KMC implementation at country level.
      The congress (November, 16-17, 2018), in which we expect 400 participants, will focus on neuro-protection of the brain of the premature and LBW infant through KMC. We will invite speakers and discussants for keynote lectures, symposia and panel discussions on this topic. There will also be a call for abstracts and among the accepted ones; the Scientific Committee will select some for oral as well as poster presentations.
      See the web site for more information: http://www.inkmc.net/
    • 17 November 2018
      The 17th of November each year is the World Prematurity Day. Originally started by parent organisations in Europe in 2008, the World Prematurity Day is an international event aiming at high-lighting the ~15 million infants born preterm each year.
      Read more about this day on the March of Dimes web site, and on Facebook.
    • 19 November 2018 Until 23 November 2018
      Come to the Neonatal Update 2018, 19-23 November 2018.
      This annual 5 day international meeting has grown to become one of the largest annual speciality meetings in neonatal medicine. As a forum for the discussion of state of the art clinical practice and new research, it attracts senior neonatal and paediatric clinicians from around the world.
      The Neonatal Update 2018 will be held at BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP. It is a grade II listed building which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and has been the home to the British Medical Association since 1925. It is conveniently located only a few minutes’ walk from Kings Cross, St Pancras, Euston and Russell Square stations, providing easy access around London, the rest of the UK and with Europe via Eurostar.
      Find more info on this URL: https://www.symposia.org.uk/neonatal/home.html
    • 24 January 2019 Until 25 January 2019
      The goal of this event is to increase skills on the use of NAVA ventilation in the NICUs, which already have some experience of NAVA and they have a Servo-i or Servo-n ventilator.
      Last 5 places available!
      Date: 24-25.01.2019
      Location: Turku, Finland
      Registration fee: 600€ + taxes (incl. lunches and refreshments during the workshops) 
      How to register: contact Hanna Soukka (hanna.soukka@utu.fi or NAVA@tyks.fi before November 30, 2018)
      Preliminary program is attached below.  In case of any questions, don't hesitate to ask here or email!
      On behalf of Hanna Soukka and Baby Friendly Ventilation Study Group,
      Cath Friday
      NAVA workshop January 2019 invitation letter and preliminary program.pdf
    • 31 January 2019 Until 01 February 2019
      Check this course out, 31/1-1/2 2019.
      Click on the topic below to get all info about the course, incl the registration link.
    • 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!