A heart–respiratory monitor can measure a baby's or child's:
Caregivers can use these measurements to determine how the baby or child is doing, and help make decisions regarding treatments and medicines.
The monitor often uses stick-on electrodes, or patches, that detect chest movement and the heart beat. The patches are attached to the baby in several places on the chest or the stomach, and connect to the monitor using an electric cable.
Electrodes may cause mild skin irritation. Extremely premature babies with very sensitive skin may need special gel-like electrodes to reduce skin damage.
Blood pressure is rarely monitored. If it is, a cuff will be placed on the baby's arm or leg.
Oxygen levels are monitored using a pulse oximeter, which is a small red light device placed on the baby's finger or toe. It does not harm the skin.
It's important to note that monitors are electrical instruments, and they may not work if there is power loss or an electrical problem. Although monitoring capabilities are lost, there is no risk to the baby.
Infants and children may occasionally be sent home from the hospital with these monitors.
Hunt ED, Hauck FR. Sudden infant death syndrome. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 367.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.