Drs. Pam Griffin and Randall Moorman at the University of Virginia Health System have developed a bedside monitoring device that detects unique cardiac rhythms, which their research shows are characteristic for the development of neonatal sepsis.
Dr. Randall Moorman, study co-author and cardiologist at the UVa Health System, was instrumental in developing the novel bedside monitoring system to predict the likelihood that sepsis will occur in a baby in the next 24 hours. The new system analyzes heartbeat signals obtained from a standard bedside heart rate monitor and looks for patterns that give an early indication that the baby is getting sick. Characteristics such as decreased variability of the heart rate along with brief episodes of slowing of the heart rate indicate that the infant may be getting an infection. These characteristic patterns can serve as an early warning to the physicians and nurses caring for the infants.
“At UVa we found characteristic heart rate patterns in infants twelve or more hours before they were known to be infected, and we designed a computer program to detect these patterns,” said Moorman. “We worked with colleagues at Wake Forest to be sure that these heart rate characteristics typical of illness happened in sick infants elsewhere.”
Now after years of testing and clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, academic research hospitals are participating in a multi-center National Institutes of Health-sponsored study to further test if heart rate characteristic monitoring improves outcomes for NICU babies.
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