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News and Features Fetal Health Center Grows into New Space

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News and Features Fetal Health Center Grows into New Space

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 open frontiers."

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 conditions immediately.

"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 research.

"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."

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