Health Team

'Immobilization' blanket replaces sedation for infant medical procedures

Posted June 1

Infants born preterm are two times more likely than those born full-term to have an adverse event from sedation or anesthesia.

The new finding, published recently in the journal Pediatrics, also found that risks continue up to 23 years of age. Duke University Children's Hospital, though, is reducing that risk for many newborns.

Before Braeden Deaver was born last year ultrasound exams revealed a problem.

"He has a congenital heart defect," said Baeden's mother Stephanie Deaver. "It's called a hypoplastic left heart syndrome, where his left side didn't develop."

Stephanie Deaver says the condition set in motion a plan to deliver him at Duke and plan open heart surgery to correct the potentially life threatening problem.

Before undergoing procedures such as open heart sugery, neonates—those 30 days of age and younger—sometimes need to have MRI scans of their brains to look for complications. Those steps used to require sedation, even a breathing tube, but now have been replaced by a special blanket.

"What the blanket does—the med-vac blanket—is it will immobilize the baby in their physiologic natural sleeping position," said Christine Hiller of Duke's Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center.

Hiller says first the baby is fed, so it will be less likely to cry. Then the child is swaddled in a normal blanket and then wrapped inside the immobilization blanket.

The blanket is filled with foam beads and air. A hand-operated pump then removes the air.

"Then you can see the beads have conformed to the baby," Hiller said.

Stephanie Deaver remembers seeing Braeden confined in the device.

"And I asked, 'What is that?'" Stephanie Deaver said. "But he was perfectly content."

Hiller says an in-hospital trial with 10 infants, using no sedation and only the immobilization blanket, was very successful.

"They were completely functionally still so that we could get quality brain imaging," Hiller said.

Braeden Deaver has already endured enough sedation and anesthesia through several heart procedures. So, Stephanie Deaver says it's a blessing to not have to put him through more.

Braedon Daever is now developing well and catching up with his twin brother who experienced no problems at birth.

The special blankets are not just limited to babies undergoing an MRI.

Duke first used the Med-Vac blankets for their pre-term babies, but their success led to use in full-term babies as well.


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