A NEW system of monitoring tiny premature babies at Singleton Hospital is expected to save up to 20 lives in the coming years.
The Heart Rate Observation system, Hero for short, goes live in the neonatal unit on Monday — with Singleton the first hospital in the UK to use it for clinical purposes.
It monitors the infant's heart rate from the routine continuous ECG available in intensive care.
A computer then analyses the data and can calculate the risk of the child becoming ill with conditions such as the serious infection sepsis over the following 24 hours.
It provides an early warning to doctors so they can increase their vigilance and initiate further investigation or early treatment as appropriate.
Sepsis can lead to permanent damage or even death. However, traditional observations and tests can take longer to confirm it, meaning the condition can be quite advanced before it is diagnosed.
Singleton Hospital Consultant Neonatologist Dr Sujoy Banerjee said: "A baby's normal heart rate varies. It isn't constant. But when babies start becoming unwell it loses that variability. It becomes more constant, and then it starts to dip.
"In normal observations these variations are difficult to pick up because they are such tiny changes.
"The Hero software analyses the baby's heart rate during intensive care and detects this early loss of variability.
"It warns the clinician of the risk of the baby becoming ill in the next 24 hours.
"The clinician can then be more vigilant. They may decide they are worried about this baby and can initiate further investigation or start early treatment as appropriate."
Last year ABMU succeeded in getting support for three key projects that used technology to improve patient care.
It was awarded £1.07 million from the Welsh Assembly's Health Technology Fund, with £386,000 allocated to Hero.
The system has been installed in 20 cots in the neonatal unit, with a licence to run it for 10 years.
It is predicted to save 20 additional young lives over this period, and reduce the number of sepsis episodes by 62.
As the cost of caring for a tiny baby with sepsis is very high, the system is expected to pay for itself within a few years.
The system is already in use in many large centres in the United States.