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In the Netherlands, 7 to 8% of all babies are born prematurely. Unfortunately, the cause of premature labor or preterm birth often remains unknown. However, we can monitor premature babies more and more closely, thanks to advanced technology.

Why this is important:

Babies born prematurely should be closely monitored, as they are more likely to have physical and cognitive problems compared to non-prematurely born babies.

AI measures brain activity

Although much progress has been made in neonatal care, babies born before the 28th week are still at very high risk for long-term cognitive and motor problems. Early prediction of these potential problems is crucial.

Researchers at Utrecht Medical Center have developed an AI model that can predict how preterm babies will develop in the long term. This model can estimate which babies may develop intellectual disabilities during their development.

It works like this; The model analyzed EEG recordings of the brain activity of hundreds of babies in the first three days after birth. With about 80% accuracy, the model was able to distinguish between children with low IQs and those with optimal outcomes at young school age. The research team plans to continue working in the coming years to make the AI model better.

Wearables also offer solutions

In addition, there are increasingly smarter, non-invasive ways to monitor other vital signs of premature babies as well. Bambi Medical, an Eindhoven-based medtech startup company and former winner of a Gerard & Anton Award has a CE mark for the Bambi Belt. This is a skin-friendly and wireless monitoring system for baby’s vital signs.

It works like this; the system consists of a single-use belt, a reusable bridge, and an interface. The belt is wrapped around the baby’s chest. Sensors integrated into the belt measure the baby’s ECG and dEMG in a non-intrusive manner, while the Bridge sends the collected data to the Interface. The Bambi Interface sends this data to the patient monitor at the bedside. Máxima MC is the first hospital to deploy this innovation.

A smart mat

More innovations are being worked on at Máxima MC that can help premature babies. A doctoral student is working on an innovative mat for premature babies. At first glance, it looks like a simple, small and thin black mat, but it is packed with state-of-the-art sensor technology. The sensor mat detects reduced movements when a baby is not well, allowing medical staff to intervene quickly.