Upstate focus of collaboration with SU is sleeping infants in neonatal intensive care unit

Premature newborns often require special care from nurses in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as their tiny bodies develop. Nurses want babies to sleep on their backs before they go home, but while they are in the NICU, Associate Professor Karen Klingman from Upstate Medical University’s College of Nursing says newborns often need to be repositioned to aid their growth.

“If they are on their tummy, they push up; then they can develop their shoulders,” said Klingman. “If they are on their back that doesn’t happen, so there is this trade-off nurses in the NICU need to think about. Should the baby be on its back or on its tummy to help with development.”

Upstate had interest in doing research on how sleep position could affect development of babies in the NICU, but right now the only data is from nursing logs entered manually each day. To develop an improved data collection method, Upstate faculty teamed up with bioengineering seniors in the College of Engineering and Computer Science to design a sensor that monitors infant sleep positions.

“This is basically a tool we are making to give nurses and doctors the opportunity to have physical data of how long the infants are sleeping in certain positions and for how long,” said SU senior Alyssa Anderson. “They can use this to correlate the health and development of the infant, and could it be related to these side effects of them sleeping in what position.”

For their senior capstone design project, Anderson and Tierney Clark ’18, Ao Li ’18 and Sarah Venn ’18 designed and constructed a prototype using sensors underneath fabric connected to a custom-coded microcontroller board. Li was born prematurely and she hopes their design will lead to more accurate data on some of the most fragile patients in a hospital.

“The data collected by the computer is continuous and complete, so that will make the nurses’ work much more efficient,” said Li.

The device can measure pressure from an infant’s shoulders, behind, head, stomach and knees—and with input from experienced nurses and engineers, the interdisciplinary project showed strong results during testing.

“We couldn’t have done it without them and I don’t know they could have done it without us because they wouldn’t have the expertise to know what to look for,” said Klingman.

Caption: Associate Professor Karen Klingman, RN, PhD, holds a doll that was used in the project with SU bioengineering students to design a sensor that monitors infant sleep positions.

—Story provided by Syracuse University

Back to Feature Stories →