17 November 2020 18:34
DUBAI, 17th November, 2020 (WAM)--Latifa Women and Children Hospital revealed that it's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, NICU, which is the largest NICU in the Northern Emirates received 921 admissions from the beginning of 2020 up to October. The NICU department highlighted its services in light of World Prematurity Day, which falls on November 17 of every year. Preterm babies are those born before 37 weeks, normally weighing less than 2.5kgs, and therefore need essential care to be nursed back to health including protection from infections, ensuring that they are kept warm, ensuring skin-to skin contact with the mother and that they are receiving sufficient breast milk. Out of the 921 admissions in the NICU, 18.34 percent (169) were preterm babies who are less 34 weeks old. Dr Mahmoud Saleh Elhalik, Consultant Neonatologist and Head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Latifa Hospital, said that babies as small as 420 grams were managed with a high success rate at the NICU.
So far in 2020, the NICU had two babies that were below 500 grams. Dr Elhalik said that some of the factors that can increase risks of going into early labour are: smoking, chronic illnesses, eating unhealthy food, certain infections, such as urinary tract, or other abnormalities related to their reproductive system, to name a few. Latifa Women and Children Hospital has an average of 4000 deliveries per year. ElHalik said that bed occupancy of the hospital's NICU reaches on average to almost 85 percent. Meanwhile, the average length of stay at the hospital was 18.35 days in 2020. The NICU has 64 beds dedicated for neonates. The NICU team includes 23 expert neonatologist, 4 respiratory therapists and almost 160 nurses who work round-the-clock. "Neonatology services provide comprehensive medical care for newborn infants, including high-risk critically ill neonates, extreme preterm infants born at 23- 24-weeks' gestation or referred sick neonatal cases," said ElHalik. Dr El Halik said that Latifa's Hospital is equipped with the most advanced neonatal ventilation modes and hemodynamic monitoring that ensures pioneering neonatal services. ElHalik revealed that the NICU has introduced two new advanced medical techniques at its NICU that aim to further enhance the provision of quality super specialised services for neonates. The first technique is amplitude-integrated electroencephalography, aEEG, is a method for continuous monitoring of brain function that is used increasingly in NICUs. "The method is based on filtered and compressed EEG that enables evaluation of long-term changes and trends in electrocortical background activity by relatively simplified monitoring of cerebral function, with growing use in bedside decision making and inclusion criteria for randomized clinical studies," he said. He added that aEEG is used in the neuroprotective strategies in cases of Hypoxic encephalopathy and those requiring total body cooling also in newborns with both pulmonary hypertension and congenital heart disease. "The second technique we have introduced is the near infrared spectroscopy, NIRS, which is an emerging continuous, non-invasive monitoring modality of tissue oxygenation in the most immature and critically ill babies in the NICU setting. It reflects the perfusion status and oxygenation status of underlying tissues at the bedside. NIRS can detect improper tissue perfusion early, before irreversible cell or tissue damage occurs," said El Halik. He added that this method is already used to monitor cerebral oxygenation in infants with hemodynamically significant ductus arteriosus (HSDA), cerebral oxygenation in infants with perioperative status of congenital heart disease or in cases of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, HIE, splanchnic oxygenation in infants with necrotizing enterocolitis and for renal regional saturation. This will help in better and safer management of newborns in the NICU. Dr ElHalik revealed that there are plans to standardize neonatal care in Dubai through the "Dubai Neonatal Network", a programme developed by Latifa Hospital Neonatologists, which is the first of its kind in the region. "The network will retrieve data related to neonatal services in all NICU's in Dubai to help benchmark neonatal services, collect data and offer comparative analysis and an opportunity for quality improvement projects in different neonatal intensive care units. Implementation will be through the Health regulation department in DHA." He said that collecting this data will help enhance neonatal care in all NICU's in the country. The unit also stresses the importance of family centered care in which, parents are actively involved in the management of the baby through kangaroo care. He revealed that healthcare professionals at the hospital teach the mother and father Kangaroo Care (which is skin-to-skin contact between the baby and their parents) from day one, adding that parents' loving touch have proven to have many health benefits. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, Kangaroo Care is one of the most effective ways to meet a premature baby's needs for warmth, frequent breastfeeding, protection from infection, stimulation, safety and love. WHO estimates that this technique could save an estimated 450,000 preterm newborns a year. "One of the key benefits of kangaroo care is aiding the lactation process. We emphasise on importance Breast-feeding and importance of mothers', own milk, as the main source of feeding for our newborns in NICU. We managed to achieve around 85% compliance on this concept, which is 15 per cent more than the international figures of similar NICU's. This contributed in achieving good outcomes for newborns admitted to our unit, and comparably excellent results on benchmarking with high standards NICUs worldwide such as the Vermont Oxford Network, which the department is a member of" he concluded.