What is the Neonatal Follow-Up Program?
The mission of the Follow-Up Program is to continue to provide care for graduates of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The follow-up team consists of:
- A medical director.
- A nutritionist.
- A clinical coordinator.
- An occupational therapist.
- Data entry personnel.
- A data analyst.
We routinely see infants who:
- Were born prematurely.
- Weighing less than 1,250 grams (2 pounds, 12 ounces) at birth.
- NICU infants with a variety of complications including:
- Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH).
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).
- Congenital malformations.
- Infants discharged on cardiorespiratory monitors.
What types of care/services are offered through the program?
The follow-up clinic provides medical and neurodevelopmental management for graduates of the NICU and maintains a database of outcomes. Referrals come from:
- The NICU discharge planner.
- Private practitioners.
- Early Intervention.
- The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA).
How long are babies followed in the program?
Visits may be scheduled from birth to adolescence as indicated. Standard follow-up is for five years.
How are families involved in the program?
Families bring their children into the clinic for comprehensive multidisciplinary assessments and receive detailed feedback and recommendations. Families are also able to meet with a family resource specialist; a former NICU parent who is able to provide support, connection to resources and assistance navigating the health care system.
Is there a measure of success? If so, what is it?
Our success is making certain that families are linked to all of the support services they need after the baby is discharged from the hospital. Secondly, the research studies we have participated in have identified interventions - such as surfactant, antenatal steroids and breast milk - that have contributed to improved outcomes of special NICU babies.
How has that changed over the years?
In 1974, our smallest survivors were born at 27 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Today, we have many very tiny survivors born at 23 to 24 weeks pregnancy. The numbers of twins and triplets has also increased dramatically so that about 25 percent of babies born weighing less than two pounds, three ounces are now multiples.
Is this program unique?
Currently, it is recommended that all tertiary care centers with neonatal intensive care units have follow-up programs to assess outcomes of their graduates. Women & Infants Hospital has one of the oldest continuously running follow-up programs in the country.
What is the future for neonatal follow-up?
We will continue to provide state-of-the-art, coordinated, family-centered care and support, and to monitor the neurodevelopmental outcomes of our NICU graduates.