Cardiologist Moorman earns University Innovator of the Year honor

Professor develops method to test for sepsis in infants


Randall Moorman, a cardiologist and professor of medicine, physiology and biomedical engineering at the University, was honored as the 2014 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Tuesday, recognizing his work on early diagnosis of infection in premature infants.

Moorman worked to develop a heart rate monitoring device to help gauge a child’s risk of developing a dangerous bloodstream infection known as sepsis within 24 hours of birth.

“The problem is trying to detect sepsis early, when the antibiotics would be most effective,” Moorman said. “That’s difficult because they are tiny babies who are unable to tell you how they feel, and often the first suspicion that there is a problem at all is that something very serious happens to them.”

The device uses a series of mathematical algorithms to track specific changes in the heart rate of premature infants which are similar to the changes seen in fetal heart rates when the fetus is in some sort of distress. These changes in heart rate allow doctors and nurses to administer antibiotics before sepsis develops the potential to cause significant harm.

In the largest randomized trial ever conducted on premature infants, Moorman’s monitoring device reduced the overall death rate in low birth weight infants from 10 percent to eight percent.

“If you turned on the monitor for 50 admissions, 50 low birth weight infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, you will save one life,” Moorman said. “For the extremely low birth weight infants, if you turn on the monitor for 25 of them, you will save one life.”

Moorman’s monitoring tool is currently used at 1,000 bedsides in 15 hospitals in the United States and Europe.

“Working in premature infants was a very good place for us to start, because sepsis is a common problem, and the patients of course can’t in any way give you a heads up when they’re getting sick,” he said.

Moorman and his research team are now working on a similar early diagnostic device for use with adults in intensive care units and throughout hospitals.

“This was really a very good way of getting started on the general problem of making the early diagnosis of bad illnesses or early interventions that should help,” Moorman said. “Our group is now working very hard on doing the same kind of thing for adult patients, in intensive care units and on hospital floors.”

The Edlich-Henderson award is named after University Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard F. Edlich and Christopher J. “Goose” Henderson as a tribute to their “enduring support and commitment to the University and its innovators,” according to the award’s website. The award recognizes the work of researchers whose discoveries have made a large impact on both the University and global community.

The Innovator of the Year Award grants the recipient with a $10,000 cash prize and a formal reception.

“The award title and criteria were modified in 2012 to be more inclusive of University innovators pursuing a variety of different paths to achieve impact for their discoveries,” the press release announcing Moorman’s award said.

Moorman emphasized the importance of his research team for the success of the device.

“There is a large group of people that has worked for a long time on these problems,” Moorman said. “It is only my name on that award, but there probably isn’t room anywhere to put all of the names of all the people that have really done all of this work.”

Published April 10, 2014 in FP test, News

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