Recent studies at the Neonatal Research Institute at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns have shown significant improvement in premature infants' health with delayed cord clamping at birth. This procedure occurs when a clinician waits at least 30 seconds after delivery before clamping the umbilical cord to stop the flow of blood to the baby.
However, many of the sickest newborns, especially very premature infants, do not receive this therapy because they may need help with breathing or resuscitation at birth. Current practice in the United States is to cut the umbilical cord immediately in these cases so the baby can be taken to a designated treatment area. The result is that these critically ill infants don't receive the potential health benefits of additional cord blood, which can include a reduced need for oxygen, better heart function and fewer transfusions.
With a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers at Sharp Mary Birch are hoping to change that. The grant provides more than $350,000 in funding for a study on whether delayed cord clamping can improve long-term brain function for babies needing resuscitation at birth.
In addition, specialized "LifeStart" resuscitation beds arriving at the hospital this week are helping make the study possible. The beds can be placed beside a mother during delivery, allowing her newborn to receive immediate resuscitation without being separated from the umbilical cord. The system provides a stable, warmed platform for the baby, and necessary equipment within clinicians' reach.
"The practice of helping babies breathe while waiting to clamp the umbilical cord has been around for a long time; it makes sense for the sickest infants," said Dr. Anup Katheria, director of the Sharp Mary Birch Neonatal Research Institute. "We're focused on producing evidence that shows the benefits. We think this could become the foundation for practice-changing resuscitation techniques, transforming outcomes for the most critical of newborns, regionally and nationwide."
The Sharp Mary Birch Neonatal Research Institute was established in 2013 to identify and disseminate the latest scientific evidence on newborn care. The Institute consists of a team of experts focused on improving the outcomes of at-risk infants.