Dr. Allen Cherer is a neonatal care expert with over 30 years of medical accomplishments to his name.

Tag: history


Neonatology: an overview

Neonatology is a type of pediatrics, focusing specifically on medical care for newborns. The primary patients of neonatology are newborn infants who were born ill or became ill shortly after birth.

Here is a quick overview of this medical concentration, for those unfamiliar.

Origins of Neonatology

Neonatology is a very recent concentration of pediatrics. High infant mortality rates existed as early as the late 1800s. The first premature infant incubator station was created in Chicago by Joseph DeLee. The first NICU (newborn intensive care unit) was established in New Haven, Connecticut. Neonatology was officially recognized as an official subspecialty of pediatrics in 1975 by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Modern Neonatologists

Modern neonatology physicians are not here to help with minor problems; a normal pediatrician will be able to assist with most medical issues in infants. A neonatologist is trained to deal with high-risk situations. Premature babies, birth defects, and other serious issues are handled by neonatologists.

Neonatologists are serious doctors, and it takes serious time to become qualified. In addition to a standard college education, a doctor must have 4 years of medical school, 3 years of residency in pediatrics, 3 more years of residency in newborn intensive care, and they must be certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

In addition to neonatologists, there are neonatal nurse practitioners. These nurses are specialized in neonatal care, and they will be assisting the physician along the way. They are able to diagnose some issues, prescribe medication, and some can even perform medical procedures themselves.

A neonatologist may assist with the diagnoses of breathing disorders, certain infections, and birth defects. They will also be the primary strategist in treatment options for an infant. They will formulate nutrition plans to make sure an infant will have maximum growth. A neonatologist will work closely with other medical staff, pediatricians, and nursing staff to assist with any serious illnesses in newborns.

Neonatologists are Best for Newborns

Minor problems for adults could mean possible death for an infant. That’s why specialists are needed for infants. There are also many common postpartum issues that a neonatologists can assist with. Many of these are routine for them; however, rare diseases and disorders can be diagnosed by a neonatologist as well.

Neonatal jaundice, neonatal cancer, inborn errors of metabolism, neonatal diabetes mellitus, neonatal herpes simplex, and neonatal seizure are a few of the more common problems a neonatologist will assist with.


Neonatology: a Brief History

Physicians and scientists began recognizing that premature or ill newborns required specialized care in the 1700s. However, it would be another century before a physician would take the first steps toward improving neonatal health. In the coming years, advancements in science and technology steadily enhanced the chances that preterm infants survived.

19th Century 

French obstetrician Etienne Stephane Tarnier recognized that premature infants were unable to maintain their body temperature. The physician invented the first incubator using a wooden box with a glass lid. The heat was provided by a hot water bottle. As a result, infant mortality decreased by 28 percent.

Pierre-Constant Budin trained under Dr. Tarnier and became a pioneer in neonatal nutrition during the late 1800s. Dr. Budin was aware of the risks of feeding newborns cow’s milk due to pathogens. He encouraged his new mothers to breastfeed. He was also responsible for introducing tube feeding for preemies who were unable to feed naturally.

By the early 1900s, Martin Couney, one of Dr. Budin’s students, improved upon Tarnier’s incubator design. However, the medical community was not accepting and the devices were not used in hospitals. In order to gain attention for the need, Dr. Couney began treating infants free of charge and demonstrated his invention at expositions and fairs.

20th Century 

For the most part, premature or ailing infants were not provided medical care. It was not until after World War II that the medical community recognized the need to offer specialized care. During this era, hospitals began developing “Special Care Baby Units” that eventually evolved into NICUs. Along with providing sufficient warmth, the units ensured that the infants received oxygen. There was also increasing awareness of an infant’s susceptibility to infection, which led to stringent hand washing.

Formulas for premature infants were introduced during this time. The formulas contained increased levels of calcium, phosphorus, sodium and protein. However, the high protein levels soon created a number of problems. As such, whey proteins were used.

Beginning in the 1960s, laboratory tests and values were established to monitor infant health. Physicians created a way to evaluate blood gases, bilirubin levels and liver function along with checking electrolytes, blood sugar and oxygen levels.

Advancements in knowledge and technology meant that infants born after 23 weeks of gestation had a survival rate of 33 percent. Infants born after 24 weeks had a survival rate of 66 percent. The survival rates continue growing each year.

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