The Chestnut Hill College Biology Department presented the 23rd Annual Fall Biomedical Distinguished Lecture Series on October 5, 2016. The two guests of this series were Martin Keszler, M.D., who delivered the lecture “Fifty Years of Newborn Intensive Care: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” and his wife Mary Lenore Gricoski Keszler, M.D. '74 who deleivered her lecture on “A Short History of the Neonatal Follow-Up Programs.”
Development of Intensive Care for Newborns
Dr. Martin Keszler discussed the development of intensive care for newborns. When premature infants had issues with their lungs, doctors used to give them pure oxygen. This did help the infants regulate their breathing, but it caused many other health issued as they got older. Especially since during that time the doctors did not have a way to regulate or know how much oxygen they were giving the infants. The over-ventilation of oxygen leads to brain damage, which in many incidences caused blindness in premature infants.
During the transition from the womb to birth, the baby must switch from having lungs that are filled with fluid and receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord to lungs that are filled with oxygen and blood circulating in the lungs. Many newborns, especially premature newborns, have issues transitioning, since the lungs are one of the last organs to completely develop. When a premature infant is born, their lungs are not strong enough to easily transition from being filled with fluid. When an infant is born with fluid in their lungs, doctors first stick a suction tube in his or her throat to try and remove the excess fluid. If that is not successful, the doctor has to put a tracheostomy tube into the newborn's voice box (larynx) and throat (upper airway). Dr. Keszler has been working on less invasive ways to transition to breathing after birth. Dr. Keszler has other projects such as stem cell therapy, synthetic and nebulized surfactant, as well as developing an artificial womb. All of these projects are meant to help stop the respiratory distress infants have when transitioning out of the womb.
Comfort of Premature Babies
Dr. Mary Keszler’s lecture opened with a picture of a premature baby that weighed 600 grams, which is equivalent to the size of a can of soda. Dr. Keszler discussed the importance of skin-to-skin connection between parents and the premature baby. She explained the comfort study, in which babies in neonatal care benefited when their parents participated more in their care. Dr. Keszler spoke about how the follow-up programs provide evaluations and clinical supervision of high-risk premature infants from birth until they are about seven-years old. The main point in her lecture was to show everyone how much neonatal follow-up programs have improved over time. She closed her lecture with a video about a premature infant named Francis, who she worked with from his early birth to his being able to grow, develop and eventually go home with his parents.