12:56am Friday 22 November 2019

University of Maryland Children's Hospital Unveils new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Cynthia Bearer, MD, PhD, FAAP
 Cynthia Bearer, MD, PhD, FAAP

In the new NICU, the Division of Neonatology in the UM SOM Department of Pediatrics, will provide a full range of state-of-the-art therapies for treating extremely premature and premature babies, including  nutritional management, surgical interventions for birth defects including congenital heart disease, abdominal wall defects, cleft lip/palate repair, brain malformations, whole body cooling for neonatal encephalopathy, care of infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and care of infants with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. 

The new Unit has 52 private rooms, each with a sleeping couch, to allow families the privacy and space they need to bond with their baby and perform important developmental practices such as skin-to-skin contact. To better accommodate the sensory sensitivities of premature and critically-ill infants, each room is equipped with controllable light and sound to help regulate circadian rhythms and mimic the environment within the womb. A large family lounge with a fully-equipped kitchen, dining area and sitting room has been added so families and siblings of NICU babies can gather, play and relax in a comfortable, home-like setting. 

“As one of only two NICUs in the State of Maryland with a level IV designation, the highest level of care available for critically-ill newborns, we continually strive to give our patients and families the most compassionate and advanced care,” says Jeffrey A. Rivest, President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), home to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. “We could not continue to innovate without the philanthropic partnerships and support of our generous donors who have committed more than $8 million to help us build this extraordinary space.” 

Doctors and researchers in the Division, led by Cynthia Bearer, MD, PhD, FAAP, Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Pediatrics and Head, Division of Neonatology, will continue to study and explore all of the elements of the NICU environment in order to better understand the needs of premature and extremely pre-mature babies. According to Dr. Bearer, these research efforts help re-create a NICU that closely imitates the womb so that these infants can continue to grow in the most natural environment outside their mother’s body. 

“The new NICU exemplifies how the School of Medicine and the Medical Center work together to provide innovative treatments, that are based on a foundation of research, to deliver the highest value of care to even the tiniest of our patients,” said E. Albert Reece, Vice President, Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.   “The Unit will give University of Maryland School of Medicine faculty researchers countless opportunities to study the kinds of environments that promote healthy development.”  

According to UMCH, each room is equipped with a noise tracker to reduce ambient noise, as well as a system that will allow families and staff to control the sounds each baby hears. These sounds can include music, a recording of parents’ voices, or a track that mimics the sounds within the womb. The development of babies who receive the new sound environment will be compared to babies who did not receive it.  Researchers in the NICU also plan to study the air quality of incubators, the impact of skin-to-skin contact, and connectivity of brain cells when introduced to two stimuli simultaneously.    

“Creating a supportive environment for our families was one of our main goals for the renovation of the NICU,” says Steven J. Czinn, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics at UM SOM and Physician-in-Chief of UMCH “The new NICU also exemplifies our commitment to research and discovery-based medicine, the results of which we hope will positively impact our own patients as well as babies around the world.”   

Other features of the new NICU include an imaging room for in-unit x-rays, and a lactation room to facilitate breastfeeding. The lactation room also has a donor breast milk bank for mothers unable to breast feed.  The unit was also designed to meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements.   

According to Dr. Bearer, the research conducted in the NICU is one part of the Division’s broader agenda for studying an array of neonatal issues, including Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia, Normal and abnormal neurodevelopment, Nutritional support for neurodevelopment, Intestinal Innate Immunity, Neonatal Infection, Neonatal gastroesophageal reflux, Non-invasive testing, Palliative Care, Impact of Health Policy on infant mortality. 

To learn how you can support the NICU, visit: http://www.ummsfoundation.org/NICU.

 About the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital

The University of Maryland Children’s Hospital is recognized throughout Maryland and the mid-Atlantic region as a resource for critically and chronically ill children. UMCH physicians and staff excel in combining state-of-the-art medicine with family-centered care. More than 100 physicians specialize in understanding how to treat conditions and diseases in children, including congenital heart conditions, asthma, epilepsy and gastrointestinal disorders. The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides the highest level of care to the tiniest newborns. To learn more about the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, please visit http://umm.edu/programs/childrens.


 About the University of Maryland School of Medicine


The University of Maryland School of Medicine, chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States, continues today as a leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland, and is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education. With 43 academic departments, centers and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists, plus more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S.A., with top-tier faculty and programs in vaccine development, cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, and human genomics, among other centers of excellence. The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the U.S.A., but also has a global presence, with research and treatment facilities in more than 35 countries around the world. http://medschool.umaryland.edu/

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