Impact of NICU environment on neurodevelopment of premature babies focus of University of South Florida conference

January 11, 2002

Tampa, FL -- The glaring lights of neontal intensive care units (NICU) may be more than annoying-- they can harm the retinas of developing newborns and disrupt the way these tiny babies process important visual information.

This and other new findings about how NICU environments impact the neurosensory development of premature infants will be presented at a University of South Florida College of Medicine conference Sunday, Jan. 13, to Wednesday, Jan. 16.

The conference, titled "Evidence-Based Science for Establishing an Appropriate NICU Environment," will be held at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, FL. Featured speakers include top neonatologists, pediatricians and infant and child development experts from across the country.

Among the topics will be: A growing number of NICUs have begun implementing programs to control bright lights and loud noises that interfere with premature infants' neurological development, and to limit times when infants can be disturbed by injections, intubations and suctioning.

"A kinder, gentler NICU is not incompatible with a technologically advanced unit," said conference co-director Stanley Graven, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies at USF.

It is important to improve the quality of life for infants in the NICU, in addition to emphasizing advanced medical treatment, because more low-birth-weight babies are surviving and spending more time in these units, Dr. Graven said. Each year, nearly 200,000 infants in the United States spend two to six months in NICUs.

Dr.Graven and other researchers across the country are accumulating an impressive body of evidence to demonstrate that continuous lights, intense noises and odors, and painful or uncomfortable procedures can inhibit the physiological stability, recovery and growth of premature infants.

University of South Florida (USF Health)

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