Texas Health Gel Program Keeping Babies Out of NICU

Arlington-based Texas Health Resources has had good results system-wide from a pilot program to treat neonatal low blood sugar with an oral gel instead of a stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Low blood sugar—or hypoglycemia—is the most common metabolic problem in newborns. So if babies are born showing signs of hypoglycemia, their blood sugar is tested.

The Texas Health gel program includes giving babies who test with low blood sugar a 40 percent oral glucose gel to stabilize their blood sugar, instead of checking them into the NICU for intravenous glucose administration.

At Texas Health Fort Worth, for example, nurse researchers gave the gel to 26 infants over the course of one month. Only six of the 26 still needed a NICU admission.

The program is cost-effective. While treatment for hypoglycemia in the NICU can cost up to $3,200 a day, the gel costs about $5 a tube.

“We love everything about this: it’s less invasive, it’s less expensive, and it keeps the baby with mom. What’s not to love?” Lindsey Canon, director of Women and Infant Services at Texas Health Fort Worth, said in a news release. “And, so far, we’ve gotten great feedback from our moms.”

Texas Health staff nurses learned about the idea at the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses Convention in 2016 and rolled out the pilot program earlier this year.

Today, all 11 of the wholly owned Texas Health hospitals where physicians deliver babies are using the glucose gel intervention when medically appropriate for infants.

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