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MRI-Compatible Incubator Ensures Safety of Newborns, Supports Pediatric Research

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 25, 2015) — Neonatologists at Kentucky Children's Hospital (KCH) recently acquired an incubator compatible with magnetic resonance technology (MRI) to examine brain development and injuries in newborns.

The addition of the MR Diagnostics Incubator System nomag IC will allow KCH neonatologists to visualize the brain structures of high-risk infants born before 25 weeks of gestation, as well as infants who suffered from oxygen deprivation, also known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, before delivery.

The state-of-the-art incubator will prevent the need for sedation in newborns, who are already susceptible to hypothermia and other complications that could exacerbate their conditions. As a benefit for the neonatal intensive care unit staff, the incubator, which custom fits into the MRI machine, will simplify the process of transporting an infant.

The UK Division of Neonatology specializes in caring for the smallest and most fragile newborn babies, some of them weighing less than 700 grams. UK has the only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit - the highest level for the most complex care - in the region and last year had nearly 900 patient admissions. The division offers a well-developed and comprehensive clinical care service and a rapidly growing research program.

While most premature infants will not need an MRI right away, Dr. Peter Giannone, chief of the Division of Neonatology and vice chair of Pediatric Research, said conducting MRIs on extremely premature babies prior to discharge is becoming a standard of practice in major medical centers specializing in care for these patients.

The incubator will also serve an important function enabling the collection of data for an ongoing study within the UK Department of Pediatrics, which is investigating the developmental implications of brain bleeds commonly diagnosed in premature babies.

"We will be able to put the baby in the incubator, connect specially designed monitoring equipment, and take the baby down to the MRI, with the anticipation of doing the MRI without sedation," Giannone said. "This will be a much safer way to do MRIs on our babies."

Giannone and John Bauer, Ph.D, a researcher in the Department of Pediatrics, are leading a randomized placebo-controlled trial looking at whether the delayed clamping of the umbilical cord at birth can improve blood flow to the brain and reduce the risk of brain lesions in the earliest premature babies. The research trial is supported by a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams, elizabethadams@uky.edu

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