Premature babies are some of the most vulnerable patients in a hospital, and they also need some of the most dedicated care. Treating these tiny patients in the neonatal unit, or NICU, can be a challenge, especially when it comes to magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs). Taking a baby through the hospital to an MRI machine and exposing them to germs is not a decision a doctor takes lightly, and that's why this new announcement is a welcome one: The FDA has cleared a new MRI machine for exclusive use in neonatal units.
This system, called the Embrace Neonatal MRI System, is designed specifically to scan the heads of premature babies. Doctors can place the baby in a temperature controlled incubator, then move the incubator directly into the MRI machine. The incubator helps keep babies from moving too much.
It's a fully enclosed MRI machine that doesn't require a safety zone; that's why doctors can use it in the NICU. The entire process, including preparation, takes less than an hour. And if a baby goes into crisis while in the machine, it only takes 30 seconds to remove them from its environment.
It's not hard to argue that advances that help premature babies survive the earliest and most difficult days of their lives are excellent. Not only does this machine ensure their nonexistent immune systems won't be exposed to hospital germs, but it makes sure they have timely access to MRIs. When mere hours can have drastic impacts on a baby's prognosis, you can bet this machine will make a difference.