Sharp fall in babies needing intensive care treatment at Holles Street

Changes comes due to new early identification system of infection risk at NMH

The youngest gestational age baby admitted was born at just 23 weeks while the lowest birth weight was less than 500g. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The youngest gestational age baby admitted was born at just 23 weeks while the lowest birth weight was less than 500g. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The number of babies requiring intensive care treatment at the National Maternity Hospital fell by over a quarter last year due to a new system of identifying infections early.

Clinicians believe the development will be of significant benefit to mother and baby bonding and to breast feeding by reducing the need for separation.

The “dramatic” fall of 27 per cent was recorded in the annual NMH Neonatal Clinical Report on Thursday.

The introduction of an “Early Onset Sepsis Calculator” helps medical staff determine which infants are at risk and would benefit most from antibiotics.

“This remarkable reduction shows the importance of constantly reviewing work practices and introducing changes as a result,” said Dr Claudine Vavasseur, director of Neonatal Intensive Care at the hospital.

“It reduces the incidence of separation of infants from their mothers, facilitating bonding and breast-feeding, as well as saving staff time”.

The report shows that in 2018 the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admitted 1,517 infants compared to 2,090 in 2017 - the lowest number of admissions in six years.

The unit cared for 121 infants weighing less than 3lbs and provided 1,403 days of “intensive care” and 2,916 days of “high dependency care”.

While infection was previously the leading reason for admissions, it now comes behind respiratory, gastroenterology and prematurity issues.

Fifteen babies at risk of brain injury were offered therapeutic hypothermia. This involves the infant being cooled to three degrees below body temperature before being “re-warmed” three days later. Staff then carry out a brain MRI to assess the results.

“Therapeutic hypothermia is regarded as the greatest single advance in Neonatology over the last 25 years as research has demonstrated it reduces the rate of death, severe disability and cerebral palsy in these infants,” the hospital said.

The youngest gestational age baby admitted was born at just 23 weeks while the lowest birth weight was less than 500g.