It was one of the first hospitals to establish a neonatal follow-up program, and it has one of the best return rates of any hospital in Parents' survey: About half of the children who are at high risk for developmental delays such as learning disabilities or impaired speech come back to the hospital for evaluation -- and, if necessary, a treatment plan. And despite treating some of the sickest infants, it has very high survival rates. In 2011, 90 percent of infants weighing 2.2 pounds or less at birth got to go home with their families.
It spends nearly $8 million a year just on neonatology research and published 56 studies in the field in 2011 alone. Among the areas of study: prevention of lung injury in premature babies and intrauterine growth retardation, a complication during the mother's pregnancy that disrupts the nutrients and hormones available to a fetus.
In 2012, the hospital was the first in the world to install an MRI scanner in a NICU. Previously, infants couldn't receive these helpful imaging scans because it was too risky for them to leave the NICU. Researchers are also working on a study involving lung repair and regeneration in preemies.
As part of a government research network, the neonatology team at Riley Hospital for Children is studying how to get babies off ventilators and breathing on their own as well as how to optimally cool newborns with moderate to severe brain injury to reduce the risk of developmental problems down the road. In June 2013, the hospital plans to open a new NICU with 60 private rooms.
Local hospitals send Nationwide Children's their tiniest newborns because its NICU boasts a tremendous 78 percent survival rate for babies born between 22 and 27 weeks' gestation. The key: researching the effectiveness of every last detail, down to the tape used.
Children's Hospital of Michigan is one of a few hospitals worldwide with a MicroPET scanner, which allows for screening of newborns. It also has an experienced, comprehensive developmental follow-up program.
It offers comfort and privacy. While most neonatal intensive care units are "pod-style," with a dozen or more babies in one area and only a curtain separating one family from the next, Monroe Carroll Jr. Hospital at Vanderbilt offers 35 rooms with an adult bed and a private bathroom so parents can comfortably stay with their sick newborn. Doctors are also researching the developing brains of infants born earlier than 24 weeks and new systems to prevent infections.
The hospital has identified genetic factors that increase the risk of breathing problems in babies. It uses new technology to understand how germs that babies acquire in their intestines after birth impact their risk of serious intestinal and lung complications.
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