There is any use to fear

Sudden infant deaths are a nightmare for many parents. Sensor-equipped bags, nappy clips and baby bodysuits that measure breathing, pulse and oxygen saturation of the blood and send them to an app on the parents' smartphone seem all too tempting. With alarm function if the values ​​deviate from the norm. The concept is pulling: The market for such baby monitoring technology is growing steadily.

However, there is no medical reason for this constant monitoring at home, write US doctors of the "Children's Hospital of Philadelphia". The manufacturer's advertising aimed at parents could raise unnecessary fears and doubts about not being able to protect one's own child.

Manufacturers bypass the approval

The experts write that it has not been proven that the devices are of any use. The manufacturers cleverly evade the review of their offers by the responsible US regulatory authority for medical devices, the FDA: They do not claim that their products can prevent sudden infant death syndrome. But they send the message that it is better to monitor the baby's vital signs in case something happens.

In selected cases in which doctors, for example, determine an increased risk of respiratory arrest, a drop in heart rate or lack of oxygen in premature babies, physiological monitoring could be useful US medical professionals in their JAMA article. However, the safety and effectiveness of these devices must first be tested.

The authors use the example of a blood pressure app to illustrate how important such proof is. A recent test found that this app falsely made almost 80 percent of the high blood pressure patients who use it safe: it reported normal blood pressure even though it was elevated. Here, too, the manufacturers talked out that the app was not intended for medical use.

Check apps better

The problem is widespread in health apps, so the doctors. They therefore demand more commitment from the authorities to enforce an approval process for such apps. In addition, the medical research community can contribute by regularly testing the offerings in the growing market for baby monitoring apps and making the results available to parents and doctors.

But even if the measurement via sensors and apps should turn out to be extremely precise, their use can do more harm than good. The systems would inevitably sound the alarm in situations that are not life threatening. A temporary drop in oxygen saturation in the blood to below 80 percent, for example, is completely normal in healthy babies and has no medical consequences. Movement could also cause false alarms.

Such an overdiagnosis could panic unnecessarily and rush to the emergency room. In the technical article, the experts conclude that this risk has not yet been countered by any proven benefit of such devices, which doctors should transparently explain to parents in order to enable them to make an informed decision. (sda)