print

Helping Preemies Breathe Easy: August 9, 2012

The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is welcoming a new arrival, one that will help preterm babies breathe easier. This is one of the few places in the country to use the technology, and the only site between Tampa and Miami.

Braylon Seabrook made an early entrance into this world. He was born at 24 weeks, about three and a half months sooner than expected.

“He was this small, like I could hold him in the palm of my hand.  You can walk around just holding him,” says Tiera Marion, Seabrook’s mother.

Six weeks later, baby Braylon has more than doubled in weight. Home for now is the Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“The commonest problem we see with babies that are born early - they are pre-term and the lungs are stiff,” says Dr. Kultar Singh, a neonatologist with The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

So Braylon is benefitting from a state-of-art technology called NAVA - for Neurally Adjusted Ventilatory Assist. It’s a special module that adds super-sensitivity to a conventional ventilator.

“This machine senses when the diaphragm is contracting, so that’s when baby’s breathing in. And this machine supports and gives the breath in at the same time.  When babies stop breathing, the machine stops. The baby could exhale,” says Dr. Singh.

Everything in this nursery is designed to keep babies relaxed and calm. Their number one job it to grow and thrive. This neurally adjusted ventilator helps them breathe easy.

“When you look at him, it just looks as though he’s breathing on his own.  But that machine is helping him a lot.  There have been times when he stopped breathing and that machine will help him breathe,” says Marion.

Preemies are prone to apnea, or lapses in breathing.  This system includes backup support. Those tiny prongs in his nose work like the C-PAP mask many adults wear to bed if they suffer sleep apnea.

“We can use the same technology through those nasal prongs.  And I think that is helping a lot of babies who are failing the trial of C-PAP. Typically, they end up incubated and ventilated. But here we have another step where we can do what we call non-invasive ventilation, which is synchronized with the baby.  It has never happened before,” says Dr. Singh.

Some babies need ventilating for a few hours, but it could be days or weeks.  NAVA, they’re more comfortable and less likely to need sedatives.

“The change from six weeks ago to now, it’s unbelievable,” says Marion.

It’s helping mom breathe easier, too.