Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hold that position!

Lumbar puncture (LP, spinal tap) is a relatively common procedure in neonatal ICU's. It can be done as part of a sepsis workup - looking for infection. Less commonly it may be done as a way of treating hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the ventricles of the brain) until a shunt can be placed or until a temporary condition causing hydrocephalus resolves. The most common temporary cause of hydrocephalus is interventricular hemorrhage (IVH, Bleeding in the brain). It's been years since we've had a baby with a bleed that severe, though.

More than one physician or nurse practitioner has commented that successful lumbar punctures depend more on the skill of the person positioning the baby than on the skill of the person wielding the needle.

There's more than a little truth in that, but the person doing the tap needs to be able to tell the holder how to adjust the position for best access. The more accurate their directions, the better the position.

There are two basic positions for LP. Sitting and lying on the side. Most of the time, we position the baby on his side with the lower part of the spine curved as much as is practical given the baby's condition and equipment being used. I generally place one hand on the baby's upper back and the other on the back of the upper thighs extending onto the diaper area.

The diaper is pulled down to expose the lower spine, but not so far as to risk fecal contamination. The nurse practitioner or physician cleans the site and places a sterile drape over the lower back. The lumbar area of the spine needs to be curled in order to open the spaces between the vertebrae. This is accomplished by curling the baby's spine from the bottom, keeping the upper part of the spine as straight as possible so as not to interfere with breathing. When I position a baby this way, it is very rare for a nurse practitioner or physician to fail to get a successful tap.

The seated position can be used for less fragile babies and the principle is the same, but hand position is different. The baby needs to be leaning forward with the head supported and lower spine flexed. One hand is placed on each side. I generally have 2 fingers of each hand on the upper back, thumbs under the chin, and pinkies under the knees. My hand size limits the size of babies I can position this way. It's trickier for the holder to learn this position and to keep the baby immobilized while the LP is done.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Assume the position!

I was chatting with a nurse from another unit recently and she commented on something she'd witnessed in my NICU. She saw one of our travelers feeding a baby - baby seated on her knee and held a distance from the body. She thought this very odd in spite of the travel nurse's explanation: "This baby's a puker and I don't want to wear her formula."

Sounds very reasonable to me - and I often feed babies in a similar position, not always to avoid baby vomit.

Newborns, especially preemies, will generally go to sleep when held close to an adult's body. This is counterproductive when you need the baby to consume a minimum amount of expressed breast milk or formula. The solution is to hold the baby a little distance from your body so your shared warmth doesn't make him drowsy.

It takes a little time to feel comfortable holding babies this way, but it actually gives you better control over the baby's airway than traditional positioning. It also makes it easier to react to choking episodes -- or the aforementioned "puking".

The baby is seated on one of your thigh (varies with handedness of the adult, and baby's propensity to vomit) in a fairly upright position. I generally place the baby on my left thigh with my left hand behind the baby's neck. my thumb and forefinger (middle finger for big kids) are supporting the ears. Heel of hand ring and pinky fingers under the shoulders, Baby's not going anywhere, no matter how much he wiggles and my right hand is free to hold the bottle for feedings and to grab anything else I might need - burp cloth, bulb syringe, suction, etc.

Keeping the baby upright helps facilitate swallowing in sleepy babies and those who haven't entirely managed the suck-swallow-breathe maneuver. If the baby chokes or spits, it takes fractions of a second to put the bottle down and reposition the baby with his head forward and facing down over the right hand. This generally clears the airway, but if it doesn't, I can easily free a hand to grab the nearby bulb syringe or suction as needed.

When I'm burping a particularly spitty baby, I will move him to my right thigh facing away from me and leaning forward onto my right hand. This directs any vomit onto the floor instead of my clothing, making for much easier clean-up.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I have an App for that...

I've had a computer much longer than most people. Blame that on a sister who programs microcomputers (now known as desktops and laptops). I've had one that long. Actually, I'm on computer #6, so I'm hardly a luddite.

I did resist one particular tech item for reasons I no longer remember. I have an Ipod touch. It plays music. And videos. And games. It goes everywhere with me.

It has replaced the PDA I used to carry. It has books in it - audio and text. I found a list application (Listomni) that tracks whatever I want to buy as well as books I want to read and movies I want to watch. My calendar is in there, along with my note pad. It has news from the NY times and NPR, among others. Alarm clock, calculator. On and on as I discover previously unnecessary applications that fit in my pocket.

One of the most recent is called SparkPeople. It's an application for tracking food intake and exercise - and weight loss.

I watched a friend drop more than 20 pounds by logging every bite and exercise. It wasn't easy, but she met her goal. She was doing it on paper, though. Not something I'd be able to maintain. I'd spend too much time looking for the notebook - and the calorie counter.

SparkPeople is easy. It's educational - did you know that McD's 12 ounce Mocha Frappe has 450 calories? So does the Caramel Frappe. They don't taste nearly as good once you know, do they?

It has exercise demos, along with estimates of how many calories you burn for cardio. No credit for strength-building exercises, but I can live with that. 30 minutes of mild exercise 3 times/week meets my goal - for now.

I've been using it for a month - not even all the features, just a few basic ones - and am down 6 pounds. SparkPeople is listed on the US News web site in the article "5 weight loss web sites that work"

One of the things I found most attractive was the price. Free.