Sepsis detected early in premature baby with technology


Premature babies are prone to sepsis, a serious blood poisoning, due to their immature immune systems

New technology at Erasmus MC Sophia ensures that significantly fewer premature children die of sepsis and become less seriously ill. This is evident from research led by pediatrician neonatologist Rob Taal.

Premature babies are susceptible to sepsis, a serious blood poisoning, because of their immature immune systems. Every year around a hundred babies die in the Netherlands as a result. Research by Erasmus MC Sophia, published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, shows that early detection and treatment of sepsis is extremely beneficial.

big data
Pediatrician neonatologist Rob Taal studied the effect of a warning system based on big data analyzes of the heart rhythm of 1,200 young patients. The system can assess early whether a baby may develop sepsis. The results are hopeful. Taal: ‘The number of babies dying from sepsis appears to be more than a quarter lower compared to the years before we used the warning system. It also seems that the symptoms are less severe because we can treat sepsis more quickly.’

‘The number of babies dying from sepsis appears to be more than a quarter lower.’

Pulse variation
In the past, sepsis was only revealed when the child became ill. This meant that it was relatively late to intervene. Erasmus MC Sophia has therefore worked for a number of years with the technology called HeRO. “Of course, a baby cannot indicate when he is in pain or getting sick. The HeRo system can predict infection before the baby develops symptoms.’ The system measures heart rate variability and compares this with data from previous studies with other sick babies. When changes occur, the system gives an alarm. “The chances are that it is due to sepsis. Then, as a doctor, you can intervene early, even before the child becomes serious ill.’

Unnecessary antibiotics
Babies are often quickly given antibiotics when sepsis is suspected. However, it is not always necessary. ‘Sometimes the change in heart rate variability is due to something else. Then you don’t want to administer antibiotics unnecessarily. At Sophia Children’s Hospital, we therefore combine the HeRO technology with blood tests. We test the blood for various values ​​in good time, so that we can accurately assess whether the child is developing sepsis and whether it has been helped with antibiotics.’

“Erasmus MC Sophia is the first in the Netherlands to work with this technology. It increasingly enables us to provide personalized care and improve the opportunities for the child. It is the future of healthcare.’

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Erasmus MC / Jochem van Laar
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Technology detects sepsis early in premature babies
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