Special Heart Rate Monitor Reduces Infant Mortality

Published on June 28th, 2012 by Diana Duren.

When premature infants arrive in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt there is a HeRO watching over them.

HeRO is the name of a heart rate monitoring system that is able to detect early signs of infection in infants long before any symptoms appear. The Children’s Hospital NICU is the only nursery in Nashville to have the HeRO system.

A study found HeRO can reduce infant mortality by more than 20 percent. One infant’s life was saved for every 48 monitored, results showed.

Researchers had set out to examine if heart rate characteristic monitoring improves outcomes in neonates, such as reducing hospital stays.

“We never dreamed it would reduce mortality,” said Judy Aschner, M.D., chief of Neonatology and Julia Carell Stadler Professor of Pediatrics. “We didn’t imagine that something as non-invasive, simple and safe as creating a mathematical algorithm out of a heart rate would allow us to save lives.”

Vanderbilt was one of nine sites around the country to participate in the six-year, randomized trial that included 3,003 low birth-weight infants. About 230 infants at Vanderbilt were enrolled in the trial.

Children’s Hospital has had the system for four years, and currently, every infant in the unit is placed on the monitoring system connected to the bedside heart monitor in each room.

Doctors and nurses are able to get out ahead of any illness an infant may be developing, using antibiotics and drawing blood cultures to confirm an infection.

– by Christina Echegaray