KDL Medical Technologies is developing instrumentation to allow analysis for diagnostic purposes of infant nutritive sucking in the perinatal and post-natal period, which provides quantitative measures for studying and monitoring the feeding behavior of newborn infants. The growing pressure for early discharge of infants in response to rising costs has also created the need for objective methods of assessing neonatal clinical status that would be useful for early discharge decisions. Nutritive sucking has great potential for providing such an assessment.The present work is directed to developing a clinical device suitable for assessing preterm and full term neonates, that will be cost-effective and suitable for routine nursery use. It will comprise a disposable feeding unit and a microprocessor based data collection and analysis unit. It will be evaluated in a number of clinical nurseries to obtain the needed experience for optimizing configuration and design specifications of the instrument, its acceptance by nursery personnel, and for developing specific protocols for use. It will then be tested on a wide range of infants to obtain a data base of sucking measures for a range of gestational ages, including normal as well as at-risk conditions. The data will be correlated with other clinical and developmental measures, to develop software that will provide objective measures and clinical guidance for the user.
The sucking device being developed would be applicable in all newborn nurseries, providing a market for testing the clinical status. of the more than 3 million infants born annually in over 60,000 birth centers in the US. It will be useful in diagnosis and treatment of feeding problems in preterm and low birth weight infants, and for making early discharge decisions for full term infants.