Hyperbilirubinemia is the medical term for the condition that causes bilirubin (the cause of the yellow skin colouring from jaundice) in around 60% of the 650,000 new-born babies in the UK alone each year. Of these staggeringly high numbers, around 6% will require urgent medical attention in order to prevent brain damage.
The current medical treatment for this condition is phototherapy; which requires the use of large, expensive and immobile equipment in hospital settings. Unfortunately, the treatment also requires that mother and baby are separated during the process; and whilst powerful lights are shined onto the baby’s skin, the child has to remain totally uncovered; with eye protection fitted, and held still – in a sterile, alien environment. Although painless (despite a mild ‘tanning’ of the skin), this treatment can be extremely distressing for both parent and child alike.
In addition to the emotional issues, the existing treatment also has a number of technical shortfalls, including:
- A wide spectrum of light must be produced – with a high heat output; and wasteful (unused) energy.
- Unidirectional lights only permit treatment from one side at a time
- Frequent replacement of sensitive and expensive bulbs is required.
- Large noises emanate from the cooling fan.
Through Research and Development (with our partners), AMT’s engineers and scientists have created an intuitive (and disposable) blanket – with interwoven optical fibres – that will facilitate continuous treatment whilst the baby is reassuringly held in parents’ arms. As well as eliminating the need for eye protection, Babylight – when it is shortly approved for use –will be capable of totally mobile use; at home or on the move.
The engineers and scientists at AMT are rightly proud of this collaborative project and look forward to when the early prototypes are rolled out for use.
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