Saving babies from sepsis

October 15, 2012

For new parents Michael and Shelly, little Kinley came as a surprise.

"We weren't trying or anything," Shelly said.

Another surprise, Kinley was born four months early weighing just one pound, five ounces. "It was all new, I didn't know what to expect," says Michael.

Kinley was at high risk for sepsis, a severe blood infection that can spread throughout the body. "If we detect it late it can be very, very damaging and even fatal." Karen Fairchild, M.D., a Neonatologist at the University of Virginia Health System, explained.

But finding the infection before it's too late can be tough. "Once the baby shows signs of sepsis, they may already be very, very sick," Dr. Fairchild said.

Doctors at the University of Virginia developed the HeRO monitor to help pick up on the subtle signs early. "I really think this is revolutionary," Dr. Fairchild said.

Every hour it identifies changes in babies' heart rate patterns that happen early in sepsis, then creates a score from zero to seven. "If your HeRO score is 1 you have exactly the average rate of illness. If your HeRO score is 2 you have twice the risk, if it's 3 you have three times the risk," Randall Moorman, M.D., a cardiologists at the University of Virginia Health System, explains.

In a study of 3,000 infants, those on the HeRO monitor had their risk of death cut by 20%. Kinley's score was as high as five. She was given antibiotics and now all this new mom and dad have to worry about is parenthood.

Researchers at UVA have been working on the HeRO monitor for more than ten years and it's now being used in a handful of neonatal intensive care units around the country.


Meghan Bradley
UVA Health System
Marketing Communications

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.