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Govind Rao featured in MedTech Intelligence article

August 28, 2017 8:44 AM

This article was originally published in MedTech Intelligence.

August 24, 2017

Cardboard Incubator Gives Preemies Better Chance of Survival

By Maria Fontanazza

A low-cost infant incubator is designed to combat two of the three leading causes of infant death.

The first few weeks of life are critical for premature and low birth weight babies, as their ability to regulate their own body temperature is not fully developed. Placing the baby in an incubator, essentially a man-made version of the womb, helps maintain an infant’s temperature and environment. However, the use of incubators in low-resource countries is much more difficult, as the products are generally too expensive.

Govind Rao, Pediatric Surgical Innovation Symposium
Govind Rao presenting at the 4th Annual Pediatric Surgical Innovation Symposium where he was awarded $50,000 from the National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation (NCC-PDI).

Photo courtesy of National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation (NCC-PDI).


“The statistics, especially in lower source environments, are pretty grim: About every 10 seconds a baby dies, and usually it’s due to problems of hypothermia or sepsis,” says Govind Rao, Ph.D., professor and director at the Center for Advanced Sensor Technology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). “Low birth weight has become increasingly common as women defer childbirth. If you had an inexpensive way to intervene and keep baby warm, it would have a dramatic impact.” Rao added that premature babies born in these environments are also at risk of infection, because the incubators are not always effectively cleaned and sanitized. This means that as one sick baby leaves the incubator, the next baby coming in is highly susceptible to accepting the infection. “That becomes a highly problematic issue leading to high mortality,” says Rao.

Know Your User

Govind Rao and his team of students at UMBC have been committed to improving the odds for preemies and low-birth rate babies in low-resource environments. What started as a class project evolved into the development of a low-cost and disposable cardboard incubator designed to prevent neonatal mortality as a result of preterm birth and/or infection. Rao assigned the students in his sensors class a research project to develop a design for a low-cost incubator that would maintain the baby’s temperature and use as many locally available resources as possible. After the student teams came up with their designs, they took a field trip to India, visiting rural healthcare centers to find out what happens on the front lines.


Read the full article in MedTech Intelligence.

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