Developing a neonatal neurocritical care service in Cambridge
In November 2013, the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust awarded a grant to ACT to help improve neurodevelopment outcomes in newborn babies and drive forward the development of neonatal neurocritical care services through the provision of two dedicated neurocritcal care cots at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge.
Over the last 30 years there has been a steady improvement in the survival of sick and preterm infants requiring neonatal intensive care. However, improvements in neurodevelopmental outcomes have lagged behind improvements in survival and a significant number of vulnerable infants go on to develop disabilities, with lifetime consequences. The aim of the neonatal neurocritical care service is to reduce the incidence of neurodisability in vulnerable babies through the development of pioneering forms of specialist neonatal care.
In recent years, other countries, notably the USA, have developed neonatal neurocritical care services that specifically aim to improve neurodevelopmental outcomes in babies at risk of brain injury. The Cambridge Centre for Perinatal Neuroscience based at The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge is in a leading position to develop such a service and our goal is to drive forward the development of neonatal neurocritical care services that will provide a model for the UK. The Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust’s grant was a pivotal milestone for this ambition.
The Impact of the Trust’s Support
The grant from The Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust was used to purchase two state-of-the-art neonatal neurocritical care cots equipped with specialist monitoring and therapeutic equipment.
Thanks to the addition of these cots, in the first year of operation, the team at the Rosie were able to treat an extra 33 babies at risk of brain injury. This is nearly a 60% increase in activity and will give these vulnerable babies the greatest chance of leading the best possible life in the long-term.
By treating more babies the team have also been able to increase their research activity, which will be used to help develop new technologies to identify vulnerable infants at an early stage. The award from the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust has been crucial in creating the clinical infrastructure to carry out much of translational research and will help to multiply the effect of team’s findings so that future babies at risk of brain injury will receive the best possible care throughout the UK and beyond.
Below is the story of Aiden – an example of one of the many babies that has benefited from treatment at the Rosie thanks to the grant from the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust.
Aiden was born on 17 June 2014 at the Broomfield Hospital (Essex) weighing 5lb 9oz. But there were complications during the birth and he was starved of oxygen for some time. Aiden was diagnosed with hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (brain damage that can lead to severe developmental or cognitive delays, or motor impairments). Aiden was wrapped in an cooling blanket, put on a ventilator to help him breathe and had treatment for seizures. He was quickly transferred to one of the neonatal neurocritical care cots at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge for further management. Aiden’s parents were so grateful for the treatment that their son was given at the Rosie and wanted to be able to give something back so agreed that Aiden could take part in a research project. He had to wear a specialised hat with lots of sensors attached to record blood flow and electrical brain activity. The results were added to a database and used to identify better ways of treating seizures in babies. Aiden’s cooling jacket was removed after 72 hours and he made steady progress over the next few days before being transferred back to his local hospital. Aiden’s progress will be carefully monitored over the coming years. It is hoped in the future that many more babies like Aiden will benefit from the equipment funded by the Jules Thorn Charitable Trust.