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New technology addressing jaundice in babies

Family & Wellness
 The phototherapy tunnel machine. [Christopher Kipsanga, Standard]

Are you anxious after giving birth to a child who has developed jaundice?

There is no cause for alarm with the discovery of phototherapy tunnel/cradle technology. The technology clears neonatal jaundice within eight hours, as compared to the traditional phototherapy machine, which would take more than three days. 

Neonatal jaundice occurs because the baby’s blood contains an excess of bilirubin, a yellow pigment of the blood cells. This cause the yellow discoloration of the newborn baby’s skin and eyes.

The tunnel works by emitting a high LED wavelength at 360 degrees. It has a LED monitor screen that monitors the patient’s vitals as the treatment continues, making it safe for the neonate since it alarms if there is a deviation.

Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) is among the public hospitals that have acquired this phototherapy tunnel.

Evelyn Mvungu the nurse manager in the facility’s neonatal unit says this machine is a game changer in the management of neonatal jaundice.

The majority of newborn babies usually get jaundice after birth. However, a small percentage require treatment for jaundice. This small percentage is due to the rhesus incompatibility or blood group (ABO) incompatibility of the baby’s parents or infections.

“Traditionally we used to do exchange transfusion -- this is removing blood that has high bilirubin levels and replacing it with fresh blood. This is done using a special catheter through the umbilical cord,” she explains.

Some of the major  complications of this procedure are infection, blood reaction and, in worse cases, death.

However, with the arrival of the phototherapy tunnel exchange transfusion has become a thing of the past, and this has greatly improved the outcome of babies with high bilirubin levels.

It has also reduced the length of hospital stay and healthcare costs to the family and hospital. 

“The technology enhances infants’ excretion process, saving them from brain damage and death,” Mvungu says.

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