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Monitoring babies in the NICU with precision and without wires

An interdisciplinary team has developed a pair of soft, flexible wireless body sensors that replace the tangle of wire-based sensors that currently monitor babies in hospitals' neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and pose a barrier to parent-baby cuddling and physical bonding. The team recently completed a collection of first human studies on premature babies and concluded that the wireless infant sensors provided data as precise and accurate as that from traditional monitoring systems. The wireless patches also are gentler on a newborn's fragile skin and allow for more skin-to-skin contact with the parent. The study -- involving materials scientists, engineers, dermatologists and pediatricians -- includes initial data from more than 20 babies who wore the wireless sensors alongside traditional monitoring systems, so researchers could do a side-by-side, quantitative comparison. Since then, the team has conducted successful tests with more than 70 babies in the NICU. The researchers estimate that wireless sensors will appear in U.S. hospitals within the next two to three years.

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