Premature infants were born before their lungs and other vital organs were ready to sustain life without medical help. Infants born prematurely often spend weeks or months in the neonatal intensive care unit under the close supervision of doctors and nurses, but far too many of these infants die due to complications. J. Randall Moorman, a cardiologist from the University of Virginia co-invented the HeRO system to reduce the number of fatalities in the premature population. 


HeRO is a simple concept. A machine tracks the heart rate of premature infants and reports a score every hour. That score is used to determine the cardiovascular health of the infant. If the score shows signs that the heart is performing incorrectly, doctors can take a closer look at the infant and possibly diagnose problems early. Early detection of heart and health problems is a huge benefit for premature infants and doctors. 

Testing HeRO involved eight NICUs. Among the testing group were Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia. Testing included 3,000 premature infants and ranged from 2004 until 2010. During that time, the deaths of 152 infants were reported in the group that did not receive constant monitoring with the HeRO system. The HeRO group reported only 122 deaths. With all factors taken into consideration, the number of deaths was clearly smaller in the HeRO group than the non-monitored group. 

About 60,000 infants are born prematurely each year, weighing fewer than 3.3 pounds. Of these infants, 10-percent will die from complications. If the HeRO unit saves one out of every 48 infants, the numbers will soon grow staggering. Overall, the reduction in mortality was measured at 20-percent. That means of the 1,200 of the 6000 deaths per year could be avoided with HeRO. 

HeRO has passed the FDA and is now available in hospitals in the United States. Not all hospitals have access to HeRO equipment, but the numbers are growing quickly. 

Source: Journal of Pediatrics. Joseph Randall Moorman, MD, Waldemar A. Carlo, MD, John Kattwinkel, MD, Robert L. Schelonka, MD, Peter J. Porcelli, MD, Christina T. Navarrete, MD, Eduardo Bancalari, MD, Judy L. Aschner, MD, Marshall Whit Walker, MD, Jose A. Perez, MD, Charles Palmer, MD, George J. Stukenborg, PhD, Douglas E. Lake, PhD, Thomas Michael O’Shea, MD. 25 August, 2011.