Micro-premature babies potentially face life-long problems, doctors say

Nicholas Sacramento will be closely monitored for problems with neurological and hearing development, and may need physiotherapy.

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DUBAI // Nicholas Sacramento will be closely monitored for problems with neurological and hearing development, and may need physiotherapy.

Laser surgery on the child’s eyes in March has stabilised his vision, doctors said.

Brightly coloured and noisy toys will be used by specialists to measure his development and his parents will be taught regular exercises to be done at home.

“We need to look at neurological development, stimulation and physiotherapy so the baby develops well,” said Dr Monika Kaushal, consultant neonatologist at Zulekha Hospital in Dubai.

“The parents will meet specialists and learn to do audiovisual and physical stimulation at home. Physiotherapy is for the hands, lungs and trunk.”

A critically ill Nicholas came into the world after 23 weeks of gestation last October, weighing 530 grams.

His lungs, heart, kidneys and intestines were underdeveloped, and he was put on a ventilator and fed intravenously.

Nurses were worried that touching him would tear his fragile skin.

Prematurity is described by doctors as a lifelong condition requiring constant monitoring in the early stages.

His parents remain concerned that Nicholas has not begun crawling and looks like a newborn but Dr Kaushal said this was often the case with premature babies.

Their development is measured by checking behaviour appropriate for an infant at his actual birth date, compared with the original due date.

Doctors check the corrected age, which is the baby’s actual age minus the number of weeks the infant was preterm.

“You don’t take him as a 9-month-old but at a corrected age of a 6-month-old, and a 6-month-old baby will not crawl,” said Dr Kaushal. “Every premature baby cannot be taken at the age when they were born.

“They have to be taken at the corrected age to see if they are OK. He is getting better but he has a long way to go.”

Nicholas will have hernia surgery next month and his hearing and vision will be evaluated.

“Laser treatment done in March has worked,” said Dr Prasan Rao, specialist ophthalmologist at Medcare Eye Centre. “When the child was brought in for a follow-up in May, we found the retina was pretty stable and he has responded well to the laser.”

Dr Rao carried out surgery when Nicholas was 5 months to prevent damage to his sight and detached retinas, short-sightedness and glaucoma. “We will follow up to see if the child is developing a squint and check how the retina is doing. The smaller the baby, the higher the risk, so we will continue to check the vessels are growing normally,” he said.