Newborn babies are precious and fragile. In many situations, these children are born too early and before their organs have had a chance to fully develop. In some cases, they are born with serious conditions that require immediate intensive care.
Situations including respiratory failure or congenital heart conditions require a process known as, “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation” or ECMO. This works much like life support for babies by providing an external machine to take over the normal functions of the heart and lungs while the child begins to recover and regain or improve their own ability to use the vital organs.
An ECMO machine may be used for days or even weeks. In the extracorporeal application, blood flows outside of the body and then through a machine that works in place of the heart.
To use, a surgeon places tubes into the patient’s large blood vessels such as the neck or groin area. The tubes are then connected to the ECMO machine and blood starts to flow between the child’s body and the machine.
Membrane oxygenation happens through an artificial lung and adds oxygen into the blood. Blood is then added back into the body.
Clamp-on flow meters are used in these applications for measuring the flow rate of blood in the medical tubing. Measurement of the upstream and downstream transit times are critical for accurate and to prevent pump failure that can be fatal. Not only are the meters non-intrusive, but using acoustic vibrations for the measurement offers the accuracy that’s desperately needed in the NICU.