New Non-Invasive Test May Prevent Death in Premature Babies

New Non-Invasive Test May Prevent Death in Premature Babies

An affordable imaging test can identify premature infants susceptible to necrotizing enterocolitis and alert physicians to begin treatment before infection leads to severe illness and emergency surgery.

Researchers from Duke University have identified a non-invasive test that may prevent death in premature babies. Premature birth occurs in up to 10 percent of all pregnancies in the USA.

One of the most devastating conditions that can occur during this stressful period is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), in which the intestines of the baby can become infected and die. This imaging test, published in the Journal of Surgical Radiology, may allow physicians to diagnose this condition earlier and start treatment before it threatens the lives of these preemies.

“Improved understanding of the relationships between skin temperature and perfusion may provide insight into the pathophysiology of NEC,” says Dr. Henry Rice, lead author of the study and chief of pediatric surgery at Duke University. The new imaging study, known as thermography, “is a non-invasive technique to measure skin temperature over the visible body simultaneously.”

This peer-reviewed study shows that thermography can monitor temperature changes in low birth weight infants. Premature infants susceptible to necrotizing enterocolitis have a decrease in overall abdominal skin temperature prior to becoming severely ill from infection. Premature infants monitored using this non-invasive test may be started on resuscitative therapy and antibiotics before the infection becomes life threatening and the intestines begin to die.

Thermography is an affordable technology that can be readily implemented in neonatal intensive care units. Future studies will further explore the role of this non-invasive imaging test and the utility it plays in early diagnosis and treatment of necrotizing enterocolitis.

This study was published in the Journal of Surgical Radiology, a peer-reviewed medical journal distributed to over 11,000 surgeons and radiologists around the world. Physicians and surgeons from major medical centers around the country serve on the journal’s Editorial Board.

Their expertise provides an authoritative validation of peer-reviewed scientific research that makes an important contribution to patient care. Learn more about this study and other medical advances at

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