Validating the Performance of a Low-Cost Method to Detect and Correct Episodes of Apnea of Prematurity in Hospitals in Malawi

William Marsh Rice University
Organization Location: 
Houston, Texas, USA
Project Location: 

Apnea of prematurity (AOP), a condition in which babies suddenly stop breathing, occurs in >50% of premature infants. In high-resource settings, infants are continuously monitored and staff are immediately alerted to intervene when apnea occurs. With monitoring and treatment, AOP often resolves on its own. In low-resource settings, continuous monitoring is not available and apnea is often undetected, contributing to high rates of mortality and morbidity.  

This proposal will validate BreathAlert, a rugged, low-cost, low-power device designed to automatically detect and correct apnea, in neonatal wards at central hospitals in Malawi. This will provide access to continuous monitoring and early intervention for premature infants at risk of AOP. This proposal will also scale-up and evaluate BreathAlert in central hospitals in Malawi. Endpoints include: (1) Work with a commercial partner to refine BreathAlert and produce 45 units; (2) Evaluate performance in neonatal wards at central hospitals in Malawi; and (3) Develop a sustainability plan to support country-wide implementation. This innovation could improve care for the more than 6.7 million premature babies who will suffer from AOP each year.  

BreathAlert combines detection and early intervention for apnea to reduce the impact of AOP and relieve overburdened staff. Unlike expensive patient monitors, BreathAlert is rugged, low-cost (<$25), and battery operated.