Study at CHOC May Improve Outcome for Preemies

Chad Lieber, Ph.D., director of the CHOC Bio-Optics Laboratory, and CHOC neonatologist John Cleary, M.D., are focusing on one of the greatest challenges facing preemies – nutrition. In studies over the next two years, sponsored by the Gerber Foundation, small optical sensors will be placed on nearly 200 CHOC NICU babies’ foreheads and bellies, to attempt to predict preemies’ tolerance for feeding and ultimately help improve the long-term outcome for these vulnerable babies. Dr. Lieber (pictured above) talks more about this unique study:

Q: What are these optical sensors and what will they measure?
A:  These are the same sensors that are rapidly becoming standard practice in measuring oxygenation in the brain.  They are about the size of a Band-Aid, and emit low levels of light on one end which travels through the tissue before being collected on the other end of the sensor.

Q: What makes this study so unique?
A: Since this technique uses light, it is done painlessly and instantaneously.  Two very important things for patients, their families, and caregivers.  But the technique itself, known as near-infrared spectroscopy or NIRS, has been used for many years to determine brain oxygenation in critical care children and adults.

We are simply moving the sensor from the forehead (where it measures the brain) to the abdomen (where it can measure the bowel).  What is truly unique about our study is that our primary goal is to provide reassurance that babies can tolerate food, and secondarily to provide early indication of intolerant digestive systems.

Q: How will this method benefit premature babies and their families?
At this point, we don’t know that it will, in fact, benefit anybody.  But some of our preliminary data leads us to believe that it could, and this is why the Gerber Foundation has invested in our study.

In brief, our approach may allow caregivers an accurate assessment of the maturity of babies’ bowels, so they can decide whether to give them food by mouth or via an intravenous (IV) needle, with the main goal of providing optimum nutrition without inducing any injury.

Q: Why is optimal nutrition for preemies so important?
A: Particularly in very small preterm babies, the bowel sometimes hasn’t matured enough to be up to the task of handling food.  So caregivers are faced with a double-edged sword: (A) give food too early and risk injuring an immature digestive system that may then require surgery to correct, or (B) try to avoid such injury by feeding through an IV and risk suboptimal nutrition that can permanently impair brain development.

These are not one-time choices, but decisions that are made on a continuous basis while the baby is in the unit. Choosing correctly each time is vital to ensuring that babies get the right nutrition to develop properly and without further complication.

CHOC Research Institute Makes a Mark


CHOC Research Institute Associate Ryan Roberts is working with a team of scientists to identify specific genetic markers for Sickle Cell Disease  and Thalassemia .

By carefully studying the genetic origins of pediatric disease, he is helping to pioneer new screenings and treatments for red cell abnormalities.

To learn more about The CHOC Research Institute, click here.

Our Research Institute is REALLY Cool

Watch as the Director of CHOC Research Institute Brent Dethlefs shows off some of the “cool” equipment we’ve got in our state-of-the-art research labs here at the hospital.

Scientists at the CHOC Research Institute use cryogenic freezers to store donated cord blood and bone marrow to be used for transplants in patients with oncology or hematology-related disease.

Want to know something else that’s pretty cool? Our seven cryogenic freezers are named after the seven dwarfs. That’s right—we rely on Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Doc, Bashful, Sneezy and Grumpy to support these life-saving treatment options.

Watch the video and meet “Bashful.”

National Children’s Study Underway in Orange County

University of California, Irvine, in partnership with CHOC Children’s, the Children and Families Commission of Orange County and the Orange County Health Care Agency, was selected to conduct the National Children’s Study – the largest and most comprehensive long-term study of environmental effects on child development and health.

Since last October, more than 20 babies have been born into Orange County families recruited to participate in the National Children’s Study, which will follow more than 100,000 U.S. children from birth to age 21.

CHOC researchers expect to attend 250 births a year for the next five years, said Brent Dethlefs, director of the CHOC Research Institute. Biological samples will be collected for the duration of the study.

Researchers will also assess environmental factors to examine the effect on birth defects and pregnancy-related problems; behavior, learning and mental health disorders; asthma, obesity, among others. The study is expected to help form the basis of child health guidance, interventions and policy for generations to come.

To learn more about this exciting study, please click here:

Bailey is our champion, that’s for sure.

Bailey Spoonhower, 9, was treated at CHOC for, and beat, a rare type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. He had some advice for kids that feel nervous about coming to the hospital.

Children’s Miracle Network and Walmart have named Bailey the Champion for California. To read more about our efforts with Children’s Miracle Network, click here.

Pertussis: What Parents Should Know

Pertussis has certainly been getting a lot of press lately, but what exactly is it? Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, and young infants are particularly vulnerable. It’s transmitted through close respiratory contact with someone who is infected.

Some of the first symptoms in adults and children include, a runny nose, sneezing, a mild, dry cough, and slight fever.

As of June 30th, in California there have been 1,337 cases of pertussis reported in 2010, including five infant deaths – in what seems to be the worst year of pertussis that our state has seen in more than 50 years.

To protect our community against the current epidemic levels of whooping cough, experts at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated.

In addition to the typical series of childhood pertussis immunizations, CDPH now recommends an adolescent-adult pertussis booster vaccine (T-dap). Adults who have contact with children under the age of 12 months, particularly new moms, are among those recommended to get the T-dap.

Please visit the Orange County Health Care Agency website for the most up-to-date recommendations and vaccine availability for you and your family.