Posts Tagged ‘premature infant’

Meet Nina – our 2013 National Ambassador

Monday, January 7th, 2013

nina-centofanti1Chris and Vince Centofanti thought they knew all about preterm birth. She was a neonatal nurse-practitioner caring for critically ill babies, and he worked for GE Healthcare’s Maternal-Infant Care division, providing specialized medical equipment to hospitals. But then their own baby, Nina, was born nine weeks early, weighing less than three pounds.  She suffered from respiratory distress and spent her first five weeks fighting for life in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU).

“I can’t tell you how difficult it was, seeing our own little girl lying in the NICU, fighting for life. All our hopes and dreams for her hung in the balance,” says Chris Centofanti.  “As a nurse-practitioner I’ve seen many other parents in this situation, and now I know exactly how they feel.” “I never expected that my own daughter would have to be cared for in a NICU with the equipment I had provided to the hospital,” says Vince Centofanti.

While pregnant with Nina, Chris felt unwell at 31 weeks and went to the hospital. She was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, a form of high blood pressure with elevated liver enzymes and a low blood platelet count. It is a rare, but potentially life-threatening illness that typically occurs late in pregnancy. The only treatment is to deliver the baby as soon as possible. For the next 48 hours, Chris was treated with steroids to help develop baby Nina’s lungs before birth. At birth, Nina was immediately transferred to the NICU, where she spent the next five weeks.

In addition to Nina, the Centofantis have an older son Nick, and a second daughter, Mia, who was born at 35 weeks of pregnancy, thanks in part to weekly progesterone treatments which reduced the risk of Chris going into premature labor. “Even though things didn’t go as planned, we’ve been blessed with three healthy children, thanks in large part to the work of the March of Dimes.  Just a few years ago, the outcome might be been very different,” says Chris.  She adds, “Thanks to the care that Nina received, and the support of the March of Dimes for research and treatment, now we also know the relief and joy parents feel when their child survives and becomes healthy enough to leave the NICU and go home.”

Today Nina Centofanti has grown into an active 7-year-old who loves to dance, climb trees and turn handsprings. She has been named the March of Dimes 2013 National Ambassador. As ambassador, Nina and her family will travel the United States visiting public officials and corporate sponsors, and encouraging people to participate in the March of Dimes’ largest fundraiser, March for Babies. The money raised supports community programs that help moms have healthy, full term pregnancies, and funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten babies’ lives.

“Serving as the National Ambassador family is a way for us to show our appreciation for our children’s good health, and serve as advocates for lifesaving March of Dimes programs,” says Vince.  “The March of Dimes has provided 75 years of support for research, treatments, educational and prenatal care programs that has saved lives, reduced the suffering, and improved the quality of life for countless children and the parents who love them. My daughter Nina is one of their success stories; a perfect example of what March of Dimes efforts have accomplished.”

Katelyn’s ambassador story

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Katelyn, our 2009 National Ambassador, was brought into this world so tiny and early. She weighed less than 1 pound. Here is her remarkable story.

New drug treatment for ROP?

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. It occurs in babies born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. ROP can lead to bleeding and scarring that can damage the eye’s retina (the lining at the rear of the eye that relays messages to the brain). This can result in vision loss.

An ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will examine the baby’s eyes for signs of ROP. Most mild cases heal without treatment, with little or no vision loss. In more severe cases, however, the ophthalmologist may perform laser therapy or do a procedure called cryotherapy (freezing) to eliminate abnormal blood vessels and scars. Both treatments help protect the retina, but can have complications or side effects.

Some babies with ROP may soon have an alternative to laser or cryosurgery, according to an article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.  A drug, bevacizumab (also called Avastin), used against some cancers because it inhibits vessel growth, was tested in infants with ROP.

In the study, 143 babies with ROP received either laser surgery or were administered bevacizumab. Of these infants, 64 had ROP centered around the optic nerve (Zone 1), and 79 had abnormal vessel growth outside that area. In the Zone 1 group, the babies benefitted much more from bevacizumab than they did  from laser surgery, as evidenced in the ROP recurrence rate several months later.  (The Zone 1 group had two out of 31 recurrences, while the laser surgery had 14 out of 33 babies showing a recurrence.) The 79 infants with ROP outside of Zone 1, however, showed no significant difference in outcome from either therapy.

This is an exciting and promising study, but it is still too soon to know the long-term effects of this drug. What are the risks compared to the benefits? Follow-up research and confirmation of results is needed before this can become widely available, but this study does provide hope for treating one of the more disabling results of early premature birth.

Premature babies and breastmilk

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

breastfeedingMany premature or sick babies cannot feed from the breast right away.  They’re  not strong enough or mature enough to grasp the suck, swallow, breathe process. However, the benefits of breast milk, including protection from many diseases, may be especially crucial for these babies. A recent study found that very premature babies who received breastmilk soon after birth had higher mental development scores at 30 months and were less likely to be rehospitalized than premature babies who did not receive breastmilk. Breastmilk, however, may need to be supplemented to meet the nutritional needs of small premature babies.

For babies unable to suckle for the first week or two, moms can use a breast pump to express their milk so that the milk can be fed to their babies through a tube or with a dropper. By pumping her breasts, a mother keeps up her milk supply so that her baby can breastfeed when he is stronger.

Don’t be discouraged if it’s time to go back to work and you still want to breastfeed.  You can pump at the office and continue to provide your little one the best food possible.

In the NICU – what is surfactant?

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

We were recently asked about surfactant and how it helps a premature baby’s lungs.

“Surfactant” is a condensed form of the term “surface-active agent,” meaning something that reduces the surface tension of liquids. So what does that really mean? Example:  Detergents are surfactants – their lowering of the natural surface tension of water is what keeps bubbles from collapsing, and lets dishwater foam.  Mature lungs are foamy organs, largely composed of tiny, bubble-like air sacs that are prevented from collapsing by lung surfactant.  This complex mixture of fatty substances and specialized proteins is produced in the lungs, starting many weeks before birth.

Premature babies often lack lung surfactant.  The more prematurely a baby is born, the less likely it is to be producing enough surfactant to enable normal lung function.  Immature lungs resist inflation and collapse after each exhale.  The effort of breathing under these circumstances – called “respiratory distress syndrome,” or RDS – can exhaust a very small, premature newborn and lead to severe complications and even death.  Survivors of RDS may have brain damage due, in part, to being unable to get enough air.  In recent decades, respiratory treatments have contributed to the improved survival rates for premature babies, but the lungs of some babies have been injured in the process.

Lung surfactant was identified in the 1950s. During the 1980s, many research groups around the world studied surfactant from human amniotic fluid and synthetic varieties.  Such studies showed the safety and effectiveness of both rescue treatment (given to babies already developing RDS) and preventive treatment (given to very premature infants before they show signs of RDS.)

The March of Dimes is pleased to have supported early research on lung surfactant for premature infants.  Widespread use of surfactant has contributed to a significant drop in deaths from RDS and a drop in the U.S. infant mortality rates. In the past decade, the March of Dimes has invested over $2.6 million in research involving lung surfactant.


Updated October 2015.

RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV),  usually causes mild cold-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever) that go away on their own in about 10 days to two weeks.  It’s very contagious and most children get it by the age of two.  RSV can develop into a serious condition, however, and is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of one and in many older adults.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) states that “Premature infants, children less than 2 years of age with congenital heart or chronic lung disease, and children with compromised (weakened) immune systems due to a medical condition or medical treatment are at highest risk for severe disease. Adults with compromised immune systems and those 65 and older are also at increased risk of severe disease.”

We’re in the season for RSV infection (in the U.S. usually October to April) so it’s wise to take precautions to help prevent it.  The main thing to do is wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, don’t share cups or spoons and forks with others, and people with cold symptoms should not kiss others.

The CDC has good information about RSV symptoms and prevention as does the RSV Protection website.  Take some time to review it, especially if you have anyone in your family who falls into the higher risk category.