November 29, 2012 — The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is celebrating 50 years of caring for critically ill infants in the Harriet and Ronald Lassin Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU) with an anniversary event. CHOP established the nation’s first surgical neonatal intensive care unit in 1962 under the leadership of C. Everett Koop, MD, then surgeon-in-chief at the Hospital and later Surgeon General of the United States.
What began as a one-room 12-bed unit now houses 95 licensed beds, with more than 400 staff members who care for about 1,200 infants each year using sophisticated technologies unimaginable in the 1960s.
“Today, we take for granted that hospitals have a special unit dedicated to critically ill infants, but in the 1960s, NICUs were a cutting-edge idea,” said Steven M. Altschuler, MD, chief executive officer. “CHOP was a pioneer in the field, and through the decades our research has helped clinicians worldwide learn how to better care for neonates. We continue to lead the way in neonatal care.”
CHOP’s Division of Neonatology is ranked among the best in the nation, and its N/IICU has the expertise and technology to provide the highest level of care for critically ill neonates, including premature infants — some born as early as 22 weeks — as well as those with congenital anomalies or rare disorders. Aside from the 15 percent of babies in the unit who are diagnosed with birth defects prenatally in CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment and born in the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit, most are transported to CHOP’s N/IICU from other hospitals, many from beyond the Philadelphia region. These infants benefit from the entire range of pediatric subspecialties available at CHOP.
Years of experience and research have led to the development of multidisciplinary programs at CHOP for neonatal conditions such as airway disorders, chronic lung disease and neonatal stroke.
“Babies in our N/IICU are cared for by a clinical team with decades of experience treating infants who have the most serious diagnoses,” said Phyllis Dennery, MD, chief of the Division of Neonatology. “Our neonatal staff is leading the way at the bench and bedside, conducting research and seeking out new treatments and techniques to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable neonates.”
Many of the Division’s physicians are active researchers, studying areas such as understanding and preventing lung injury in premature babies, evaluating the effects of the maternal environment on neonates and developing markers to predict illness in babies.
The neonatal program at CHOP has grown over the years to extend beyond the Hospital’s walls, through the CHOP Newborn Care Network, which runs the intensive care nurseries at 11 community hospitals.