A neonate breathes with the assistance of a mechanical ventilator – the lifeline of a fragile newborn. As his chest rises and falls, an onlooker may not realize that the child is actually customizing every breath he takes – how fast, how deep, how long – thanks to a cutting-edge ventilation technology called Neurally Adjusted Ventilator Assist (NAVA®).
“With typical ventilation, the caregiver and machine determine volume and rate of breath. With NAVA, the patient is in control,” says Kimberly Firestone, MSc, RTT, who cares for patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “It uses a signal from the brain that goes to the diaphragm and activates the diaphragm to connect to and allow the ventilator to synchronize with the patient.”
Firestone says that while the system works well in infant, pediatric and adult patients, there’s minimal research on its effectiveness and impact on long-term outcomes in neonates. That’s why she led an initiative in the NICU to partner with Toledo ProMedica in 2012 to study the system’s effect on NICU patients. Their results, published in 2015, confirmed its potential. Now, Firestone and Akron Children’s are part of an international, multi-center group designing a trial to test the efficacy of NAVA in a larger patient population.
“With the new research strategy, it’s empowering to know that we have the backing we need to continue transforming patient care delivery,” says Firestone.