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New procedure helps spare tiny babies from pain and trauma

By Mary Richards | Posted - Dec 18th, 2012 @ 6:45am



SALT LAKE CITY — More hospitals around the nation are starting to use a technique discovered here in Utah that helps the tiniest babies.

In the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, tiny babies in incubators are carefully watched over, tubes and monitors surround their fragile bodies.

Dr. Robert Christensen, director of neonatology research for Intermountain Healthcare and director of clinical neonatology for Intermountain North Region, said in the past several tubes of blood had to be drawn from the babies at birth for critical tests.

"For an older child or an adult, a few tubes of blood is nothing. But from a one pound baby, those few tubes of blood could be 10 percent of their entire blood volume," Dr. Christensen said.

Then, he realized something.

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"That same blood exists in the placenta, and is otherwise discarded," he said.

He started drawing the blood from the cord and not from the baby, and saw incredible results. The tiny babies didn't need transfusions or blood pressure medication anymore, thus saving lots of money and trauma. So, the hospital now draws the blood from the placenta or cord within minutes after a baby is born. They don't take a drop from the infant.

Dr. Christensen said word has spread through published papers and presentations on the technique, and now 25 of perinatal centers in the U.S. are using the procedure.

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