Research Digest

Lab notes: A new device to monitor newborn babies temperatures to help save their lives

Hypothermia, in which the body rapidly loses heat, is a major cause of neonatal mortality.

India had a neonatal mortality rate of 25.4 per 1,000 live births last year. In other words, an average of little more than 25 children out of 1,000 live births died within 28 days of their births. It is significantly more than the global average of 19 per 1,000 live births recorded last year.

A group of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has come up with a solution that promises to reduce newborn deaths significantly. The solution addresses the issue of hypothermia, which is one of the major causes of neonatal deaths. Hypothermia is a medical condition where the body rapidly loses temperature. Premature babies, are highly vulnerable to develop the condition as they do not have enough body fat.

The solution is in the form of a small device. The device works by constantly monitoring the baby’s body temperature and raise alert the doctor if it goes down below the threshold limit. The device is designed to stream temperature data to the treating paediatrician through a mobile phone so that immediate corrective measures could be taken as and when temperatures drop to dangerous levels.

Speaking to India Science Wire, leader of the research team and chairman of the IISc’s Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems Amrutur Bharadwaj said the device is required to be placed next to the baby’s body near the navel. It may be taped on to the body.

The device also has an accelerometer to keep a track of what angle the baby is being held. “This is essential to ensure that the child is able to breathe properly. Under no circumstance, the baby should be lying on its stomach.”

The device has been tested successfully on 80 children. It has been developed in association with St Johns Research Institute and St John’s Medical College in Bangalore.

“The device would be particularly useful in rural areas, where there is lack of adequate neonatal intensive care units,” said Bharadwaj. “In urban centres, it is possible to keep the babies in NICUs for days on end. But, it is not the case in the rural set up. The device in a way will be like taking NICUs to the homes of the needy babies.”

This article was first published by India Science Wire.

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