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Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital Opens Most Technologically Advanced NICU in World

Neonatologists begin new era of treatment to save tiniest babies

CLEVELAND, March 25 /PRNewswire/ --

  • NICU provides individual rooms with sleep accommodations so parents can stay with their infants 24/7 in homelike setting.
  • Innovative care design that creates a healing environment with natural materials like flowers and artwork
  • Green building materials incorporated throughout NICU.
  • Rainbow Neonatologists are world leaders in the advancement of life-saving treatments.
  • The first surgical operating table developed for preemies and newborns designed by Rainbow staff

Parents may never notice the high-tech developments that surround their tiny premature baby in what doctors are touting as the most technically advanced neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the world. That's because the technology of the new unit has been enveloped into an environment that mirrors the home and where critically ill preemies are treated in an atmosphere that provides safety and privacy for fragile infants and their families.

Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital's new $25 million Quentin & Elisabeth Alexander Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will have single rooms for each baby, designed to decrease the level of anxiety and crisis families will feel, where parents can be with their newborn 24 hours a day. "It is the culmination of five years of intensive planning," says Dr. Michele Walsh, Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rainbow. "We bring the highest technology available to the most critically ill babies in a homelike environment for their families."

The NICU will have patient pods with soothing themes that incorporate elements of nature - butterfly, flower, sunshine, and raindrop (the latter two required for a rainbow) - and rooms with flowers in the glass.

These rooms replace a NICU where babies had been clustered together and were literally inches from each other.

"While the technology is vital to our care, it can also be frightening to our new parents," says Dr. Walsh. "We have softened the technology and created a healing environment that brings nature indoors through the use of materials that use real flowers and other materials." The new facility expands the NICU from 8000 square feet to 30,000 square feet, almost quadrupling its size.

"I'm especially proud of the incredible use of artwork with varied materials which were commissioned from both local artists and internationally-known artists," continues Dr. Walsh. "It's worthy of a museum."

"The most exciting piece in this new setting is that it supports parents' bonding with their babies while as nurses, we can use the technology to treat babies more safely," says Ann Reitenbach, Clinical Manager of the NICU. The new NICU will feature the most high-tech equipment in Neonatology, including the first procedural bed for babies, wireless communication to connect staff and infants, and baby cameras on each of the 38 incubators.

"This new NICU will set the standard in Neonatology and push the field ahead ten to twenty years," says Dr. Walsh. Here are some highlights:

  • World's First Operating Room Table Designed Specifically for Babies, the Rainbow Flex Developed in Collaboration with NeoForce (Previously, babies were put on adult-sized operating room tables)
  • High-Intensity Procedural Room on Floor (Babies don't have to travel for procedures)
  • Enhanced Imaging at Baby's Bedside for X-Ray Viewing
  • Vocera Wireless Communication Devices to Connect Staff to Family and Infants (Replacing Loud Auditory Alarm Buzzers)
  • Baby Cams On Each Isolette (Allow nurses to continuously visualize babies in their rooms)
  • "Green" Features Like Special Paints, PVC-Free Scrims, and Millwork with Formaldehyde-Free Substrates (Provide safe environment for these critically ill infants)
  • Ability to Completely Individualize Lighted Environment for Each Newborn

Rainbow: a Neonatology Pioneer

Rainbow has been at the forefront of newborn care since 1958, when Dr. Benjamin Spock began his groundbreaking child-rearing study and continued through the 60s when Rainbow insisted on allowing parents into intensive care units for fragile infants. Rainbow researchers and physicians designed the jet ventilator in 1980 and helped pioneer the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) center in 1987. Since the 90s, Neonatologists Dr. Avroy A. Fanaroff and Dr. Richard Martin, together with Dr. Michele Walsh, wrote and edited the definitive medical text books on newborn care while many of the world's leading Neonatologists trained at Rainbow. Forty-years ago, at the advent of Neonatology, a baby weighing 2.25 lbs. had a 10 percent chance of survival. Today, for approximately 1,200 babies treated each year in the Rainbow NICU the survival rate has improved to 96% -among the highest in the nation.

Vision 2010

The new NICU is a major component of University Hospitals' Vision 2010 strategic plan. The NICU is named in recognition of an unprecedented $10 million gift from The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation of which Quentin and Elisabeth Alexander have been longtime trustees. Vision 2010 represents a milestone for UH as it calls for investments of more than $1 billion over five years. The plan reaffirms a strong commitment to the UH Case Medical Center campus with new facilities and the expansion of services, along with new construction and enhancements to UH suburban ambulatory centers.

About Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital

For more than a century, Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital at University Hospitals Case Medical Center has been dedicated solely to the care of children. As one of the most renowned pediatric medical centers and a principal referral center for Ohio and the region, Rainbow physicians provide for more than 200,000 patient visits annually. The 244-bed hospital is home to 850 pediatric specialists and 40 special care centers including Centers of Excellence in oncology, neonatology, neurology and endocrinology. As a teaching affiliate of Case Western Reserve University, Rainbow trains more than 100 pediatricians each year and consistently ranks among the top children's hospitals in research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Rainbow was recently ranked as the #5 best children's hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

SOURCE Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital
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