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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Big Help for Treating Little Lungs

Published December 3, 2009 12:45 PM by Colleen Mullarkey

With more than half a million American babies born prematurely each year, business is booming in neonatal intensive care units across the country. Preterm births have increased 36 percent in the last 25 years, prompting more U.S. hospitals to redesign their NICUs to accommodate the growing number of patients and medical complexities.          

I recently spoke with a number of neonatologists who implemented new NICU designs in their hospitals. Regardless of their geographical locale or patient population, these innovative units all share two key design elements: family-centered care and high-tech equipment. However, these health care professionals will tell you getting the latest technology to treat little lungs can cost big money.

Fortunately, hospitals have had some help in deferring those costs from organizations like the Will Rogers Institute. It launched a neonatal equipment program to provide hospitals throughout the U.S. with gifts and grants to purchase ventilator equipment and critical care pulmonary services.

The Institute committed $400,000 in grants for neonatal intensive care in 2009. The money provided NICUs with much-needed equipment such as critical airway carts, infant resuscitators, incubators, inhaled nitric oxide therapy technology, and radiant warming therapy.

Prentice Women's Hospital, a part of the Chicago-based Northwestern Memorial Hospital, used the funds awarded from the Will Rogers Institute to purchase inhaled nitric oxide delivery devices. Not only did it improve technology in their new NICU, but it also enables the respiratory staff to help new patient populations.

"First we used inhaled nitric oxide for term babies with pulmonary hypertension, but now we've found it also has promise to benefit premature patients in improving lung function and preventing bronchopulmonary dysplasia," said Jim Jensen, RRT, a clinical specialist at Northwestern's NICU.

Don't wait until after the holidays to fill out an application because the deadline is Dec. 30, 2009. And if you need some inspiration first, take a tour of the new NICU at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland to see their cutting-edge equipment.

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