A computer model to adjust the insulin dose in preterm babies with high blood sugar levels

Dr Jane Alsweiler
University of Auckland

What is the problem and who does it affect?

It’s estimated 780 babies are born very pre-term, less than 32 weeks’ gestation, each year in New Zealand. Extremely pre-term babies commonly develop high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia) in the neonatal period, which is often associated with brain injury.

Hyperglycaemia is usually treated with insulin, but in very small babies the insulin requirements can fluctuate significantly over a short period of time which makes the correct dose of insulin difficult to determine.

This means that sometimes babies’ blood sugar levels can fall too low and they can develop hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), which can put babies at further risk of brain damage.

What is this project hoping to achieve?

The goal of this study is to reduce the incidence of hypoglycaemia and resulting brain damage in pre-term babies being treated with insulin.

A computer program has been developed to help keep blood sugar levels within a safe range for pre-term babies treated with insulin.

This study will determine whether the computer program can reduce the incidence of hypoglycaemia and whether it improves growth and later development.

If effective, this computer program will be incorporated into routine care of pre-term babies in New Zealand and worldwide, potentially reducing the burden of brain damage after pre-term birth.