Extreme prematurity

Since 1980, neonatal clinicians at Flinders have been studying the long-term development of high risk pre-term babies ranging in gestation from 24 weeks to 31 weeks, to eight years of age.

A wealth of information has been accumulated to fuel research on health, educational outcomes, IQ and behaviour of children born extremely preterm.

Most of the data documented since 1988 is recorded on a comprehensive data base and is potentially available for research.

The prime research focus has been to audit the outcome of this group of high risk infants. However the current focus is endeavouring to understand the impact of not correcting for prematurity when undertaking developmental or psychological tests on these children.

Cardiac function in pre-term babies

The neonatologists have been actively involved in improved intensive care models for pre-term babies.

With the recent appointment of Dr Sanjay Sinhal, a neonatologist with expertise in functional echocardiography, and the purchase of equipment for bedside support 24 hours a day, the Neonatal Unit has acquired a skill set that is expected to underpin research into heart function, cardiac output and brain blood flow in critically ill infants. This is particularly important in infants of borderline viability 24-26 weeks gestation.

Neonatal thermoregulation

Flinders is pioneering exciting new research into different aspects of thermoregulation in full term and pre-term babies.

Cutting-edge imaging technology is being used for highly accurate measurements of skin temperature down to .01 of a degree. This technology is being used to investigate the role of brown fat as a source of heat production in response to cold stress.

The investigators plan to add measurement of oxygen consumption to this program to further define both normal thermal physiology and the response to cold.

Therapeutic hypothermia is now a well established therapy for term infants who have suffered from birth asphyxia. However our understanding of the thermoregulatory response to this is not well defined.

This research is facilitated by Dr Scott Morris and biomedical engineer and PhD student Tony Carlisle.

Infant Nutrition

The Neonatal Unit has had a long standing interest in infant nutrition and has affiliated with the Child Nutrition Research Group within the Maternal and Child Health Research Institute.

This research has largely moved from the laboratory to a series of randomised controlled trials focused primarily on the role of fatty acids as a source of nutrition for the developing brain.