Clinical study of Penn State Hershey technology begins in South Africa

The first clinical study of the neonatal chest wall stabilizer developed at Penn State Hershey Medical Center recently began at three hospitals in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Charles Palmer, M.B., Ch.B., device inventor and professor of pediatrics, Penn State College of Medicine, spent two weeks in August in South Africa where he trained medical staff to use the chest wall stabilizer, a device that allows babies with respiratory distress to breathe easier.

"Although the device could be an option for babies who need help with breathing in technologically-advanced hospitals like those in the United States, it could be particularly useful in developing countries where more expensive medical options are unavailable or in short supply," Palmer said.

The chest wall stabilizer was designed for premature babies who have underdeveloped, unstable chest walls that retract or buckle inward with each breath, making it difficult for them to breathe and get adequate oxygen. Palmer's lightweight device wraps around the chest wall and fastens to the skin of the chest and back with a non-irritating, water-soluble adhesive. The device is non-invasive, provides stability to the rib cage, restores the chest shape, permits chest expansion and has already been shown to allow easier breathing. Most importantly, this small device allows parents to hold the baby while they grow and heal.

The technology was recently patented and then licensed by Penn State to Respironics Inc., of Murraysville, Pa. Respironics is further developing it under the name, Hug 'n' Snug* Neonatal Chest Splint.

Although tested on an experimental basis in the United States, the first clinical study is taking place in South Africa where Palmer hopes the device will be available as soon as possible to help babies who do not have as many options as those in the United States. In the U.S., babies who are suffering from respiratory distress are given a substance called surfactant as well

Contact: Valerie Gliem
Penn State

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