Profusion of medical advances for preemies

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In 5 seconds

Presentation of discoveries that will change the lives of premature babies and their families in three critical periods of their life.

For World Prematurity Day on November 17, 2015, the CHU Sainte-Justine children's hospital, affiliated with the University of Montreal, is presenting an overview of recent discoveries that are changing the lives of premature babies and their families at three critical periods of their lives: before birth, during their stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, and after discharge from the unit. Numerous advances by clinical researchers at the mother and child hospital – Canada's largest – promise to help prevent, treat, and comfort preterm babies and their families. Their work is particularly important given that prematurity is the world's leading cause of death at birth and can cause severe and lasting physical, intellectual, and psychological complications for children born preterm worldwide.

Critical period 1 - Before birth

A new molecule is found to prevent preterm birth

Premature births are intimately linked with inflammation of the uterine tissue, a biological response that induces contractions and preterm labour. In their search for a means to prevent this phenomenon and complications related to preterm deliveries, Mathieu Nadeau-Vallée, a doctoral student in pharmacy, and Sylvain Chemtob, a neonatologist with multiple drug patents to his credit, discovered an agent that shows efficacy in inhibiting inflammation and preventing or delaying uterine contractions and premature delivery, without adversely affecting the fetus or mother. This discovery is a giant step towards preventing prematurity.

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Higher risk of preterm delivery for women born preterm

Women who were born preterm have a higher risk of giving birth to preterm children. “The difference is not alarming considering that the vast majority of women born preterm gave birth at term. But it is significant enough to consider premature birth a risk factor in monitoring pregnancies,” said Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt, who led the study. Dr. Nuyt is also principal investigator of a major study on the future of premature babies in adulthood.

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The clinician scientist is available to discuss with the media.
Participants in the study are also available for interview.

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Parents of preemies: “We want more than just statistics”

Medical associations recommend that doctors discuss all potential problems faced by preemies, but parents want more than a list of risks. They want to know what these risks mean for the future of their child and their family, and how preterm birth will affect their quality of life. They want to know how neonatology works and how to be parents in an intensive care unit. Drs. Antoine Payot and Annie Janvier, both who are neonatologists and clinical ethicists, study communication between parents and health professionals.

Media interviews

The clinician scientists are available to discuss with the media.
Parents are also available for interview.

Critical Period 2 - Stay in the neonatal intensive care unit

Blocking light improves preemies' survival rates

Premature babies need to be fed intravenously due to the immaturity of their digestive system and their high nutritional requirements during their first days of life. Jean-Claude Lavoie's research work has shown that the survival rate of preemies is improved by blocking light from reaching the intravenously-fed infused nutritious mixture, thus preventing serious potential complications such as pulmonary and kidney dysfunction or generalized infection.

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Probiotics reduce inflammatory bowel disease in preterm infants

The neonatologist and clinical researcher Dr. Keith Barrington has conducted numerous studies to optimize the care of newborns, on subjects from nutrition to cardiovascular and respiratory support. The CHU Sainte Justine is the first Canadian institution to use probiotics in neonatology to prevent serious bowel inflammation, or necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in preterm infants. Dr. Barrington and his team demonstrated that is possible to optimize the nutrition of preterm infants and reduce NEC using probiotics.

Media interviews

The clinician scientist is available to discuss with the media.
Families are also available for interview.

Encouraging skin-to-skin contact over incubators using zero-gravity chairs

With many benefits for both premature infants and their parents, the Kangaroo-Mother Care (KMC) method is internationally recognized as the ideal environment for the family in the neonatal unit. In KMC, the infant is placed not in an incubator but in skin-to-skin contact with the parent. The most recent recommendations encourage the use of KMC as early, often, and long as possible. Isabelle Milette, a nurse practitioner specializing in neonatology and developmental care, evaluated the efficacy of three models of zero-gravity chairs with parents and practitioners to select the ideal model and optimize KMC in the neonatal intensive care unit and the parental experience. The use of zero-gravity chairs improved the duration of KMC episodes up to two hours per day on average while increasing their frequency.

Media interviews

The clinician scientist is available to discuss with the media.
Families are also available for interview.

Learning to intubate premature babies by viewing their throats on a screen

Each year, thousands of premature babies have difficulty breathing at birth. To help them, a ventilator and tube are inserted in their lungs. This delicate procedure requires expertise that pediatricians learn during their training. The videolaryngoscope is a tool that allows doctors to view an infant's throat structure on a screen during intubation, with better lighting. A clinical study conducted by the neonatologist Dr. Ahmed Moussademonstrated that use of this tool helped pediatricians in training to learn this procedure more quickly, and will improve the learning of future pediatricians.

Media interviews

The clinician is available to discuss with the media.
Pediatricians in training who participated in this study are also available for interview.

In the intensive care unit, parents still want to care for their preemies

A few years ago, visiting hours for parents in the intensive care unit were restricted, and physical contact between parents and children was minimal. This approach has been replaced by integrated care, in which families team with practitioners to care for sick newborns. Still, in an intensive care environment, infants require technological assistance, and nurses and doctors assume greater responsibility for care. However, parents generally want to participate in caring for their child. A study conducted by Dr. Annie Janvier, in collaboration with the team Parents en néonatologie, surveyed the views and experiences of parents and practitioners in neonatology. It was shown that they felt the need to be informed clearly and transparently of their potential role in neonatology, that they should be taught how to participate in care, and that parenting practices deemed priority should be supported and encouraged.

Media interviews

The clinician scientist is available to discuss with the media.
Parent partners are also available for interview.

Critical period 3 - After discharge from unit

The Web: a new tool for parents to support the healthy growth of their preterm child

After leaving the hospital, families need to be supported, guided, and reassured in the daily life of their preterm child. Dr. Thuy Mai Luu, a scientist and pediatrician in the neonatal follow-up clinic and researcher has developed, with Julie Gosselin, a scientist and professor in rehabilitation, workshops and a Web platform to help equip parents in caring for and supporting the development of their preterm child from birth to two years. Infant behaviour, the sensory environment, body position, oral nutrition, parent-child interactions, and developmental stages are discussed. The program was validated with 50 families. Overall satisfaction of the parents has been great because the program fulfills a parental need.

Media interviews

The clinician scientist is available to discuss with the media.
Parent partners are also available for interview.

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HAPI project assesses the health of young adults born preterm

It is known that adults who were born preterm are at risk for developing chronic diseases such as hypertension, obstruction of the lungs, sugar intolerance, and osteoporosis. The HAPI project aims to assess the cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, bone, and kidney health of 200 young adults born preterm. Drs. Anne Monique Nuyt and Thuy Mai Luu, who lead the project, seek to better understand this influence of prematurity and the risks and protective factors involved. The results of this study will certainly help provide important guidelines to health professionals with regard to the follow-up and prevention of chronic diseases in this population.

Media interviews

The clinician scientists are available to discuss with the media.
Young adults participating in the study are also available for interview.

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About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center

CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with the Université de Montréal. It brings together more than 200 research investigators, including over 90 clinicians, as well as 350 graduate and post-graduate students focused on finding innovative prevention means, faster and less invasive treatments, as well as personalized approaches to medicine. The Center is part of CHU Sainte-Justine, which is the largest mother-child center in Canada and second most important pediatric center in North America.

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