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David Geffen School of Medicine
The Cutting Edge

A New Device to Safely

A system co-designed by UCLA’s Pediatric Transport Team is the first incubator in the country that allows helicopter or plane crews to safely transfer and carry critically ill newborns without the infant ever having to be removed from the enclosure.

Dr. Robert Kelly with newborn-transplant device
Dr. Robert Kelly with newborn-transport device.

The device essentially serves as a mobile Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that "allows us to provide full monitoring and full medical care for newborns who urgently need surgery or other care where time is of the essence," says Robert Kelly, M.D., associate medical director of the Pediatric Transport Team.

Every month, between 12 and 15 newborns are referred from outlying regional hospitals to the NICU at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. The newborns tend to be premature babies, some with a gestational age of just 23 weeks, who are suffering from congenital heart defects or neurological injuries. To get them to UCLA, the NICU partners with REACH Air Medical Services, which operates both helicopters and planes.

REACH worked with UCLA's transport team for approximately two years to design a newborn-transport incubator that meets the special needs of babies weighing 10 pounds or less while also fitting within the constricted confines of modern medical helicopters and planes. Measuring three feet wide and two feet high, the incubator includes a heated transparent enclosure that allows the medical team to access the infant on three sides and a base containing emergency medical equipment, such as a ventilator and specialty gases.

"The biggest issue we have with these very small neonates is temperature control," Dr. Kelly says. "The enclosure allows us to keep them warm and minimizes external noise and exposure, which can predispose them to cardiac instability or neurological injuries." Dr. Robert Kelly with newborn-transport device.



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