Tanzania has upgraded the ventilators at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) to save more preterm babies with respiratory distress.
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines have been switched to machines using pressurized oxygen for preterm babies.< /p>
CPA is a type of respiratory support, or non-invasive mechanical ventilation.
Speaking to The EastAfrican on Tuesday, Dr. Martha Mkony, a neonatologist at MNH, said the hospital began using the traditional CPAP system in 2013 to save the lives of premature babies with respiratory distress and related illnesses.
“The new upgrade system, Vayu Bubble CPAP, refers to our environment. They don’t require electricity, compressed air, or manual force,” she said.
According to medical statistics, shortness of breath is a leading cause of child mortality worldwide. CPAP is an effective treatment, but “earlier CPAP systems required electricity, medical compressed air, and intensive biomedical support,” said Dr. Mkony.
Muhimbili, a referral hospital, takes up to 200 newborns a week at different hospitals in different parts of the country, she said.
“Out of 200 newborns, a third could have a premature baby respiratory distress syndrome and other related diseases and would need a CPAP system to help them breathe their lungs may not be fully developed to support such a bodily function”. explained dr. Mkony.
For preterm babies, she added, the CPAP system is delivered through a series of nasal prongs or through a small mask that fits snugly over the baby’s nose to provide non-invasive respiratory support .
“Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) occurs when a baby is born prematurely before their lungs are fully developed. The lungs of these infants lack surfactant, a slippery substance that allows the lungs to expand and contract smoothly. Without these surfactants, breathing becomes difficult,” the doctor said.
The new device, Vayu CPAP, is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use approved ) and approved by Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Authority (TMDA).
“The plan is to have this system in the Medical Store Department (MSD) so that it accessible and used in all hospitals nationwide,” said Dr. Mkony.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 130 million babies born each year worldwide, approximately 15 million are born prematurely. More than 60 percent of preterm births and 80 percent of the 1.1 million deaths worldwide from complications of preterm birth occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Joyce John, who gave birth to a premature baby, said: said: “I just gave birth to a premature baby at 32 weeks and we had to stay two weeks until my baby was mature enough to breathe and nurse on her own. I can’t stress enough how important these CPAP systems/devices are.”
Speaking at the fourth workshop, Every Breath Counts, Support the Little Lungs, said Dr. Felix Bundala, Child Health Coordinator at the Department of Health, insisted on the need for medical experts to include such developments in policy recommendations to the government.
He recommended making the new CPAP system available in all hospitals, especially in hospitals with 100 to 200 newborns per week to save more lives.
Dr. Bundala added that since the new system does not require electricity, it can also be used in ambulances.
“Sometimes a mother gives birth far away from Muhimbili and the newborn requires medical attention… the process from notifying the hospital, calling an ambulance, assembling the team, through to mother and newborn can take more than 15 minutes. Then several premature babies are lost with IBS,” he said, adding that the upgraded devices will come in handy in such situations.