Babies in the neonatal intensive care unit may soon have the freedom to move around without bulky wires.
Researchers at Northwestern University have designed a pair of wireless sensors to replace the wire-based monitors currently used to watch over babies in the NICU.
The tangle of wires can make it hard for parents to hold them.
“If she didn’t have the wires on her, maybe we could go for a walk around the room or the area. Maybe we could spend the night upstairs together. It would just make the entire experience more enjoyable and more bonding with her,” says new mom Taschana Taylor.
Experts say that bonding time between parent and child is crucial for the child’s development.
“It’s been shown that skin-to-skin contact decreases the risk of infectious diseases and of liver and lung issues as well,” says Dr. Amy Paller.
Researchers tested the sensors on nearly 100 babies at two Chicago hospitals.
The flexible wireless sensors, which are placed across the baby’s chest and around the foot, provided the same vital signs data that traditional monitoring systems did. They also protected the babies’ delicate skin.
“The adhesive interface is much less destructive to the skin. The kinds of conventional adhesive tapes that adhere the standard sensors to the skin, their application and removal will often times lead to skin injuries,” says Northwestern’s John Rogers.
Researchers say the next step would involve testing the new sensors without the wired monitoring devices also attached to the babies, and the technology could also be used in any kind of intensive care unit, as well as in outpatient care involving patients with chronic diseases that need to be monitored.