Since opening in March 2011, the
Elizabeth J. Ferrell Fetal Health Center at Children's Mercy
Hospitals and Clinics has had 135
births and provided nearly 400 integrated consultations.
Numbers that not only exceeded
expectations, but that, the Fetal Health Center team says, will
increase now that the center is operating in a new 12,000-square
foot unit as of August 2012.
As one of the only programs to
deliver babies within a pediatric hospital, the Fetal Health
Center's expanded, permanent space-which has doubled in size and
includes two operating rooms, a resuscitation room and four
labor-and-delivery rooms-allows the integrated team of experts on
staff to accommodate both mother and newborn with state-of-the-art
care before, during and after delivery.
"As our pediatric resources focus
more on fetal anomalies, we have the opportunity to add services
and technologies not currently available in our region," says
Howard Kilbride, MD, Division Director of Neonatology and Vice
Chair of Perinatal Services at Children's Mercy. "Just in the past
year, we've increased our MRI capabilities dramatically. We've more
than doubled our fetal cardiology assessment services, and we're
constantly meeting in multidisciplinary, collaborative ways to
assess how best to apply our expertise.
"We're positioned to not only expand
what we've done," Dr. Kilbride continues, "we're in a position to
Developed and offered in
collaboration with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of
Medicine, the Fetal Health Center provides the region's most
advanced care for selected high-risk newborns. The integrated
center focuses on healthy moms with fetuses that have complex
congenital malformations who will benefit from advanced diagnostics
and/or the availability of a comprehensive spectrum of pediatric
specialists during the newborn period.
The Fetal Health Center's convenient
location in the new six floor patient tower at Children's Mercy
connects it directly to the hospital's Level IV neonatal intensive
care unit (NICU)-the only Level IV neonatal center in the region-in
order to provide subspecialty and surgical support for all newborn
"Our Fetal Health Center is a
natural step in providing Level IV neonatology services," Dr.
Kilbride said. "After identifying babies prenatally who are going
to need the most advanced services, it just makes a lot more sense
to have them delivered in a place where we have top-level services
readily available, rather than to have them separated from their
mother to be transferred here after birth."
The center is also directly
connected-via a private covered bridge-to Truman Medical Center, an
adjacent adult hospital, for rapid transfer of the mother in the
rare emergency situation. In addition, to the special delivery
services, the Fetal Health Center offers prenatal consultation with
a maternal/fetal specialist in the Perinatal Clinic, and an
Integrated Specialty Clinic for coordinated prenatal care with all
subspecialists the baby will need upon delivery.
"We are involved from diagnosis to
delivery to post-delivery care," adds Timothy Bennett, MD, Medical
Director of Fetal Health Services and Vice Chairman and Professor
for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UMKC School
of Medicine. "We work in conjunction with the referring physician
to coordinate an individualized care plan for mother and baby to
optimize neonatal outcomes."
Looking ahead, the next steps for
the center include development of clinical and basic science
"It's important for us to be
innovative, not only on the clinical side, but also in finding best
ways to manage these babies and mothers and optimize outcomes by
looking, in a very scientific way, at approaches to the care of
these pregnancies," adds Dr. Bennett. "It is uncommon for babies to
be born at a children's hospital-there are only a few nationwide
that offer this service- but the benefits are immense for families
giving birth to very high-risk infants."