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Device 'to cut premature baby death rate'

The lives of premature babies could be saved as a result of a new monitoring device.

The cot-side machine checks vital signs such as heart rate and breathing, working alongside current technology to predict signs of distress and organ failure in premature babies before they occur, enabling medical staff to take preventative action.

The early warning device is being trialled by Professor Neil McIntosh and colleagues at Edinburgh University.

Commercial monitors that check vital signs often alert doctors to a problem when it is quite far advanced. The monitoring system uses a normal computer and advanced software that took the team ten years to develop.

Professor McIntosh said: "For example, we know that if a baby's lungs rupture when ventilated it takes about two hours to make the diagnosis and about 40 per cent of such babies would die.

"With our system we can pick up almost all of those within ten minutes."

Professor McIntosh said researchers have been monitoring about ten babies at a time using their new device. The cot-side monitoring system would cost about 1,000 a piece to roll out across UK hospitals.

The UK has the highest rate of premature birth in western Europe, with one in eight babies needing special care at birth.


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