UK Device Saves Newborn

LEXINGTON, KY -- When Kelli Justice walked into her baby's room at Kentucky Children's Hospital, it was terrifying. All she could see were the tubes and machines that were hooked up to her newborn son, Tristan, to help his malfunctioning lungs, reports The Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition

A catheter had been placed into Tristan's neck and was sewn onto his scalp to hold it in place. He was surrounded by tubes, some of them filled with blood. He couldn't be held. "He just looked so pitiful," Justice said.

But Tristan was being kept alive by a device invented by two University of Kentucky physicians.

With Tristan, the device was being used for the first time in Kentucky and only the third time nationally.

The catheter in his neck was invented by Dr. Joseph Zwischenberger, chairman of UK's Department of Surgery, and Dr. Dongfang Wang, who directs UK's Artificial Organ Laboratory. It was helping take carbon dioxide out of Tristan's blood and put oxygen back in, and it was working beautifully.

"The child just sailed," said Zwischenberger, who watched the procedure but was not involved in the decision to use the catheter. The device is called the Avalon Elite Bi-Caval Double Lumen Catheter, and it helps patients get oxygen into their blood when their lungs aren't working.

Tristan Ray Justice came to Kentucky Children's Hospital from Pikeville, where he was born.

But Tristan didn't cry when he was born. Doctors at Pike ville Medical Center spanked him hard, said his mother, but still, he didn't cry.

Tristan had inhaled meconium, a baby's first stool, as he was born, and it coated the inside of his lungs, slowly suffocating him.

True meconium aspiration, which Tristan had, is rare. Babies are born in meconium-stained amniotic fluid about 8 percent to 20 percent of the time, said Dr. Hubert Ballard, a neonatalogist at Kentucky Children's who managed Tristan's case. Only 4 percent of those babies develop meconium aspiration.

Tristan was flown to Lexington. Doctors first tried to treat Tristan with medication and a ventilator, said Ballard. But Tristan stayed blue. "He really had almost no response to everything we had done," Ballard said.

So Ballard decided to put Tristan on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, as the procedure is called.

ECMO is commonly used on children whose lungs are barely working. It requires the insertion of two catheters. But when using the Avalon Elite, only one is needed because it does the job of both, reports The Lexington Herald-Leader.

Copyright - The Lexington Herald-Leader

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