Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: They create a t-shirt to prevent apnea in premature babies

“The big difference we have with the competition is that we prevent apnea in a non-invasive way”, this is how the designer María Jesús Álvarez describes one of the main characteristics of the device called Pimún . It is a medical device to prevent apnea of ​​prematurity, which is when babies stop breathing for more than 20 seconds.

This technology has been created in the form of a t-shirt by the integral UC designer, María Jesús Álvarez, and the UC doctor in neonatology, Paulina Toso . They say that sleep apnea is currently prevented with invasive techniques such as the mechanical ventilator. On the other hand, Pimún gently contacts the baby’s back, teaching him through kinesic stimulation to breathe correctly, without damaging his skin.

Dr. Toso explains that apnea of ​​prematurity consists of an absence of inspiration impulses in the respiratory system, due to an immaturity of the usual mechanisms of control of respiration. “The current treatment of apneas of prematurity consists of hospitalization in intensive care units for monitoring, use of stimulant drugs derived from caffeine and connection to CPAP or mechanical ventilation in 30-50% of cases,” he points out. .

Apnea of ​​prematurity consists of an absence of inspiration impulses in the respiratory system, due to an immaturity of the usual mechanisms of control of respiration, explains Dr. Cough

“We use dorsal tactile stimulation, since for decades it has been seen that this stimulation triggers the breathing of babies. When children apnea, the first thing the nurses do is stimulate them on the back to revive them. Pimún comes to mechanize this tactile stimulation that is done today in neonatology units ”, explains M. Jesús.

How does Pimún work?
The shirt has three parts: The controller that regulates the inflation and deflation frequency, the actuator that generates the dorsal tactile stimulation and the shirt that serves to fix the actuator.

“It is intended to reduce apnea events, stabilize oxygenation, reduce the need for resuscitation, reduce the connection to CPAP and MV and with this also reduce the sequelae and hospitalization time in intensive care units,” says Dr. Cough.

“We use dorsal tactile stimulation, since for decades it has been seen that this stimulation triggers the breathing of babies. When children apnea, the first thing the nurses do is stimulate them on the back to revive them. Pimún comes to mechanize this tactile stimulation that is done today in neonatology units ”- María Jesús Álvarez

“It is designed for neonatology units in medical centers. It is used in addition to the cardiorespiratory monitor. To use it, the child’s respiratory rate must be viewed on the cardiorespiratory monitor. According to this data, the controller is configured so that the stimulation is effective. The baby is then put on the shirt with the actuator and left sleeping on his back. The stimulation must be activated while you sleep ”, emphasizes the designer.

It is expected that the device can begin to be used in 2023, after some studies and validations. “We have just finished the first pilot study with the mechanism of action of Pimún at the UC Christus hospital. We were able to evaluate the patient’s comfort, the pain scale, if there were changes in vital signs, how was the interaction with the infant because there were no records in the scientific literature, and if movement affected their EEG sleep patterns. Now comes the data analysis, although we have already seen that no child was bothered by the stimulus ”.

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