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Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital Using Bubbles to Help Babies Breathe
Date:12/10/2007

Bubble CPAP system improves outcomes for premature babies

FORT WORTH, Texas, Dec. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bubbles have entertained kids for generations. Now, they are helping improve the care of premature infants. Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital's (HMFW) neonatal intensive care unit recently implemented the use of the Bubble CPAP -- a breathing assistance system showing promising results in decreasing the incidence of chronic lung disease among premature infants. One of two hospitals in the Metroplex currently using Bubble CPAP, HMFW was the first to implement the system.

Babies born prematurely often have underdeveloped lungs. Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is a breathing system commonly used to deliver airflow and pressure to an infant's lungs via short prongs in the nose. This air pressure helps to keep the lungs open at the end of exhalation while allowing the baby to initiate his/her own breathing.

But a simple twist in this system--the addition of bubbles--is proving more effective in helping infants breathe on their own and decreasing the need to put some babies on mechanical ventilators.

How it Works

Bubble CPAP creates this pressure by placing the expiratory tube in a column of liquid. The flow of air into the liquid causes the solution to bubble. This bubbling creates vibrations that are transmitted to the baby's chest, helping the infant maintain better lung inflation and aiding in the proper movement of gases into and out of the lungs.

"It's a very simple approach," said Randy Grubbs, MD, a neonatologist on the medical staff at HFMW, "but I think it will ultimately become the best practice for NICUs nationwide when it comes to improving the lung development of premature babies."

Why HMFW Chose Bubble CPAP

Several types of CPAP can be used to aid babies in their breathing, but HMFW now exclusively uses the Bubble CPAP to give spontaneously breathing infants the respiratory support they need while still allowing them to breathe on their own.

The decision to implement the Bubble CPAP system came after a year-long review of clinical research demonstrating the system improves outcomes more effectively than others.

"This implementation was completely evidence-based," Dr. Grubbs said. "We reviewed the medical research literature thoroughly and modeled our process after NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, which reports the lowest rate of chronic lung disease in the world--six percent compared to the national average of 24 to 30 percent."

Chronic lung disease remains one of the most common and debilitating outcomes for very low birth weight premature infants, and is the result of permanent alteration of lung development associated with the use of mechanical ventilators.

"Although infant ventilators have become increasingly sophisticated over the past several years, and are certainly necessary in many instances to save babies' lives, they remain one of the major factors associated with developing chronic lung disease."

Chronic lung disease leads to increased susceptibility and severity of respiratory infections and asthma, and has been associated with neurologic and developmental setbacks, according to Dr. Grubbs. In addition, the invasive process of placing a breathing tube into the trachea and breathing with the aid of a ventilator carries risks such as vocal cord or airway injury, ventilator-associated pneumonia and infection.


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SOURCE Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital
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