Many newborn babies need urgent medical treatment in their first hours and days of life. Hyperbilirubinemia – or neonatal jaundice – affects 60% of full-term newborns and 90% of premature babies. And although it can be cured with phototherapy, the design of conventional phototherapy devices could be improved. As a global leader in both healthcare and lighting, Philips has combined its expertise in these areas to make significant advances in the treatment’s efficacy – and to bring about a step-change in the comfort it provides these youngest of patients.
A blue light bath
Neonatal jaundice occurs when babies cannot break down a substance called bilirubin. Luckily, it breaks down naturally when exposed to blue light, and babies with this condition are routinely placed under blue lamps until their bilirubin levels return to normal. The effectiveness of this therapy is directly proportional to the amount of skin exposed to the curative light – but the overhead lamps normally used, generally only expose the babies to light from above. And with such lamps, the babies cannot be picked up or cradled without interrupting the treatment. For parents and babies alike, this can be particularly distressing.
Reaching the limits
Conventional phototherapy lamps have a number of additional drawbacks. They are bulky and take up valuable space on crowded wards, and they require noisy ventilation systems to keep cool. Furthermore, their continuous blue glare can have adverse effects on the nurses working nearby – causing severe headaches and vertigo. Alternative technologies use fiber optic filaments incorporated into pads on which the baby lies, but while this approach is effective, it doesn’t add anything to the comfort of the vulnerable newborn.
The next generation
To tackle these short-comings head on, Philips is developing the next generation of phototherapy technology for treating neonatal jaundice: the Bilirubin Blanket. It’s a regular textile blanket that incorporates a new light-emitting textile technology consisting of a woven fabric with integrated blue LEDs. These tiny, robust and efficient LEDs are linked by conductive wires running through the fabric – and then covered with a light-diffusing layer so that the light is spread evenly over the patient’s skin. Because LEDs emit so little infrared and ultra-violet radiation, they are one of the few light sources that can be used so close to the skin. As the leading innovator when it comes to LED technology, Philips is the first company to incorporate these light sources into soft and flexible textiles for phototherapy.
About the technology
The Bilirubin Blanket is still in the development stage, but it already shows a lot of promise. Because it is the blanket itself that emits the blue light, the light reaches the maximum amount of the baby’s skin – this close range should significantly improve the efficiency of the treatment. Plus, the Bilirubin Blanket is just as soft as a normal blanket. So baby can be safely treated while also being comfortably wrapped up, and Mom and Dad can cradle and comfort their baby without interrupting his or her treatment. This decreases the stress for everyone, and enables the parents to bond naturally with their new baby.
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For further information, please contact:
Marieke van Wichen
Philips Corporate Technologies
Tel: +31 6 21163537
About Royal Philips Electronics
Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHI) is a diversified health and well-being company, focused on improving people’s lives through timely innovations. As a world leader in healthcare, lifestyle and lighting, Philips integrates technologies and design into people-centric solutions, based on fundamental customer insights and the brand promise of “sense and simplicity.” Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips employs over 120,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries worldwide. With sales of EUR 22.3 billion in 2010, the company is a market leader in cardiac care, acute care and home healthcare, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications, as well as lifestyle products for personal well-being and pleasure with strong leadership positions in male shaving and grooming, portable entertainment and oral healthcare. News from Philips is located at www.philips.com/newscenter.