HeRO Monitor Saving Young Lives, Spreading to More ICUs - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

HeRO Monitor Saving Young Lives, Spreading to More ICUs

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One in four premature babies will develop a severe blood infection called sepsis, but a monitor developed at the University of Virginia is catching the infection early and saving young lives.  Now, the technology is being adopted in neonatal intensive care units across the country and abroad.

The HeRO monitor allows doctors and nurses to see infections before a baby shows any symptoms, when it's often too late.  It is saving the lives of infants and saving their parents a lot of worry.

Emmy Thomas is going home after two months in the neonatal ICU at UVA.  Like all the premature babies at the ICU, her heart rate patterns have been analyzed every day by the HeRO monitor.

"When the HeRO score is less than one, that's reassuring that the baby does not have an infection," said UVA neonatologist Dr. Karen Fairchild.  "When the HeRO score starts to go up, the nurses notice that, we tell the doctors, we go and look at the baby and decide whether the baby is in an early stage of infection and needs antibiotics."

Regal Thomas, Emmy's mother, said, "Since we knew she was going to have problems, with her having an infection it would be so much more than her being sick, like she would have to take big steps back and so for them to find out early if something was going and be able to stop it earlier it was really good."

The traditional way to detect a severe blood infection is to watch for subtle symptoms, but by the time signs appear it can be too late.  A recent study of 3,000 infants born prematurely in nine hospitals showed that using the HeRO monitor is much more effective in saving infants' lives.

"We found that turning on the display and showing these abnormal heart rate characteristics to the doctors and nurses reduced the death rate by more than 20 percent," said Dr. Randall Moorman, co-inventor of the HeRO monitor.  "Every time we turn this on for 50 babies, we save one life."

And that means more premature babies like Emmy will be headed home.  "She's made it through all this, so we think she can make it through anything," Regal said. 

The monitor that started in Charlottesville is catching on.  Right now, the HeRO monitor is keeping track of more than 1,000 neonatal ICU beds in the country.  Three hospitals have started using it in the last month alone.  It's just been approved for use in Europe, and babies in London will be tracked by the HeRO monitor by the end of this year.

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