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Preventing Infant Apnea

A gently vibrating mattress that reduces apneic events in low birth-weight infants

Pediatric ICU with ECG monitor on foreground
The data acquisition software developed at the Wyss Institute, licensed and enabled to communicate with patient monitors by the MediCollector LLC start-up, creates a complete record of critical physiological measurements at the patient bedside. This allows for in-depth analysis of disease-critical changes and responses to therapies in patients. Credit: Beerkoff1/Deposit Photos.

Clinicians and engineers at the Wyss Institute and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have developed a unique and proprietary system that reduces the onset of neonatal apnea in low birth-weight infants in a clinical trial at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The system makes use of the concept of Stochastic Resonance to reset the body’s neurological control system by applying a gentle vibration to the infant through the surface of a mattress.

Apnea of prematurity is a major factor in prolonging hospitalization as well as raising concerns for subsequent risk of apparent life-threatening events and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) at home. Despite the existence of non-pharmacological interventions for apnea of prematurity (such as vigorous manual stimulation and repositioning of the infant), there is a strong need for a reliable medical device that stabilizes breathing patterns in preterm infants.

It has been exciting to watch this apnea prevention technology go from concept to prototype and onward to successful demonstration of efficacy in a human clinical trial.

Donald E. Ingber

The Wyss Institute system monitors the infant’s heart rate, breathing patterns, and other physiological signals, and then uses proprietary algorithms to identify unique patterns that are predictors of the onset of breathing disruption or cessation. Once an anticipated apnea event is identified, the system activates a precisely tuned gentle vibration in the mattress to prevent the onset of the event without interrupting the sleep pattern of the infant.

This technology has been licensed.

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