Roger Fales, PhD, John Pardalos, MD, and Ramak Amjad, MD

Principal Investigators

Roger Fales, PhD

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

John Pardalos, MD

Department of Child Health

Ramak Amjad, MD

Department of Child Health

John Pardalos, MD, (left)
Roger Fales, PhD and Ramak Amjad, MD (right)

Intelligent oxygen control for NICU patients

Each year, many of the more than 28,000 babies born with low birth weight and 41,000 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) patients require respiratory support because of immature lung development and other problems associated with prematurity. Respiratory support might last for weeks, or even months, during a NICU stay. Infants in the NICU have widely varying responses to oxygen control, so they require continuous monitoring and manual adjustment of oxygen to avoid apnea and oxygen desaturation. If blood-oxygen saturation is too high and fluctuates frequently, infants can suffer from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in premature infants.

Currently, pulse oximeter alarms notify medical staff if an infant is outside of the desired levels of oxygen saturation, and staff members must make manual adjustments. As multicenter data has shown that premature infants spend only about half of the time within the prescribed range of oxygen saturation during manual care, the principal investigators have developed a device that automatically varies oxygen and/or airflow as needed. The device uses feedback from multiple sensor measurements, such as blood-oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiratory rate, to increase the amount of time babies spend in the desired range of oxygen saturation. The device is “intelligent” because a control algorithm allows it to learn and adapt over time so that blood-oxygen saturation is controlled more reliably and accurately even with wide variations in patient condition. The researchers have completed simulation studies and are preparing for human testing.