WSLHD research investigates prevention of brain injuries through the positioning of preterm infant heads

Dr Traci-Anne Goyen of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Westmead Hospital has received a Westmead Charitable Trust Funds research grant for her work ‘Midline head position for the first 72 hours: Neuroprotection for the preterm infant’.

For over 30 years, Traci has worked at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) in the NICU at Westmead Hospital, her role in allied health as an occupational therapist has focused on development of the babies in the NICU nursery and beyond.

Receiving this grant will allow the dedicated Traci to have protected time to work on the next stage of this research project.

I lead a local team of researchers with our project ‘Positioning the preterm infant for neuroprotection,’” she said.

“We have already completed a pilot study at Westmead Hospital and now we are aiming to conduct a large international trial to answer this question.

“This grant will allow me to establish and build a team of investigators to take this research to the next level.”

Bleeding in the brain is common in babies born extremely early and usually occurs in the first few days of life.

Traci and her team are looking at whether these brain bleeds and injury to the developing brain are preventable by positioning the preterm baby’s head in the centre and avoiding turning the head for the first 72 hours of life.

This research may help to prevent brain injury for babies born extremely early, prevent disability and improve their outcomes throughout their life.

Dr Traci-Anne Goyen

Preventing disability also has important financial and economic benefits for the family and the wider community.

Knowing whether this simple and cost-effective intervention can prevent brain injury in some of these extremely vulnerable babies could have significant benefits for neonatal care across the world, even in developing countries.

Dr Traci-Anne Goyen

Supporting allied health clinicians to answer important clinical questions like this can make a monumental difference in patient’s lives.