As part of the comprehensive care for the tiniest babies, doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital use caffeine and Viagra® as medications, according to a news release timed to World Premature Day.
Who knew there was such a day — and it is today, November 17. What’s more, it is part of Prematurity Awareness Month.
Since two teenagers in our family are preemies, I feel funny about not be aware of them. But then again, neither World Premature Day nor Month were known and celebrated fifteen years ago, as far as I can remember.
Premature babies may stop breathing continuously, if their brains forget to send signals to their lungs. Caffeine has proven very helpful in this condition, by stimulating their brains, diaphragms, and lungs.
Hence caffeine is given to nearly all of the babies in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) as they come off ventilators. “The better their lungs works in the short term, the better their brain health will be in the future, preventing lifelong neurologic problems,” Dr. Edward Shepherd, section chief of neonatology at Nationwide Children’s, said in a news release. “Consistently giving these little babies the equivalent of a cup of coffee can have remarkable results.”
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved its use in newborns, the drug can be used in intensive care settings. When used in preemies, it reduces pulmonary vascular resistance, relaxing the lungs and keeping the heart from having to work as hard.
“Caring for babies born prematurely is different than caring for adults or older children. We adapt what has been learned in adults and pediatrics for our very special, unique neonates,” Shepherd said. “These babies’ lives depend on medication that is reliable and can help lead them into a healthy childhood.”
The hospital treats more than 4,400 preemies every year.
You can read the full news release by Nationwide Children’s Hospital here: