(10/22/12) - A new device is helping detect a potentially deadly condition in newborns- one that one in four babies will develop. It is called sepsis and, by the time it is picked up, it is often too late.
For new parents, Michael and Shelly, little Kynleigh came as a surprise.
"We weren't trying or anything," Michael says.
Kynleigh was born four months early, her mother says, weighing just one pound, five ounces. "It was all new, I didn't know what to expect."
Kynleigh was at high risk for sepsis, a severe blood infection that can spread throughout the body.
"If we detect it late, it can be very, very damaging and even fatal. Once the baby shows signs of sepsis, they may already be very, very sick," says Dr. Karen Fairchild, a neonatologist.
Fairchild and her colleagues at the University of Virginia developed the Hero monitor to help pick up the subtle symptoms early. "I really think this is revolutionary."
Every hour, the Hero identifies changes in babies' heart rate patterns that happen early in sepsis, then creates a score from zero to seven.
"If your Hero score is one, you have exactly the average rate of illness. If your hero score is two, you have twice the risk," says Dr. Randall Moorman, a U of V Cardiologist.
In a study of 3,000 infants, those on the Hero monitor had their risk of death cut by 20 percent. Kynleigh's score was as high as five. After antibiotics, her score dropped to a safe level.
Researchers have been working on the Hero monitor for more than 10 years and it's now being used in a handful of neonatal intensive care units around the country.
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