The world-class Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH) is the new home of a state-of-the-art neonatal Embrace MRI machine – one of only two in the United States. On November 15, a crane lifted the specially designed machine ten floors up into the NICU. The special MRI machine will help provide quicker and safer imaging so that doctors can better detect and manage brain issues in premature infants.
Matthew Bizzarro, MD, professor of pediatrics (neonatal-perinatal medicine); medical director, Yale New Haven Health NICU Network, vice chair of clinical affairs, pediatrics, said, “The Embrace MRI machine that was recently placed in our NICU is specifically designed for the newborn population and is only the second in operation in the United States, and the third in the world. Advances in obstetric and neonatal care have resulted in survival of a more medically complex NICU population, particularly those born extremely premature. This population is highly fragile, which greatly limits the ability to safely transport them off our unit.”
The new MRI machine reflects many of the goals of Yale New Haven Health System and provides for safer care for some of the smallest patients. Dr. Bizzarro explained, “The Embrace MRI is emblematic of the new NICU that was opened in January of 2018, which was designed with the goal of bringing services to our patients and their families, not bringing them to the services. In addition, the Embrace MRI does not generate a magnetic field within the room in which it is housed. We can therefore bring infants into the MRI who require supportive equipment that is not compatible with traditional MRI. This, and the location, allow many more clinical opportunities than what’s currently possible.”
The hospital has been anticipating the arrival of the MRI machine for many months. Like most things, planning a delivery and installation during the COVID-19 pandemic looked different. With delivery complete in November, Dr. Bizzarro said, “The placement of the MRI into our NICU on November 15 was, to me, symbolic for how we as an institution function. Despite all the challenges that we are facing during a surging pandemic, we continue to move care forward.”
Rob Goodman, MBBCh, MBA, BMSc, professor of radiology and biomedical imaging; chair, radiology and biomedical imaging; radiologist-in-chief, Yale New Haven Health, worked in tandem with Dr. Bizzarro on the implementation of the new specialized MRI machine. Dr. Goodman said, “Radiologists at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital hope to expand the scanner's usage in the future to include body and possibly heart imaging in our neonates. It makes sense to have a scanner specially designed for premature babies given the obvious differences in size and anatomy compared to other patients. The scanner will be able to provide us with easily accessible, fast, and exquisitely detailed brain imaging to help us manage our most vulnerable patients.”
The new neonatal MRI machine is anticipated to be up and running by early 2021 and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital neonatologists and neurologists are excited for it to be in use and for the ways it will be of benefit to some of the tiniest patients receiving care.