Millions of Premature Babies Have Been Saved, Thanks to Physics

Prior to the invention of this device, 3 out of 4 diagnosed infants would die.

5. 6. 17 by Kelsey R. Marquart
Jill Lehmann/Getty

With all the fanfare surrounding fluid-filled bags that made it possible to bring premature lambs to healthy development in the hopes of tackling premature birth in infants, it’s important to note how the medical community first tackled premature birth with a little physics.

Preemies, or premature infants, have a host of potential birth defects, including delays in physical development, learning, and communication as well as defects involving a child’s lungs causing problems like asthma, Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and other chronic conditions.

A video from popular YouTube channel MinuteEarth discusses how a mathematical study left an impressive impact on the medical community, changing how we can make a difference for prematurely born infants.

The video takes a look at the Law of Laplace and its role in the human body. Similar to the air pressure in two connected balloons, alveoli, miniature air-sacs in our lungs that exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, have trouble maintaining an air pressure equilibrium for premature children with Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS).

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By understanding the physics behind this complication, CPAP machines have saved over two million lives worldwide — a dramatic shift since the 1970s, when 3 in 4 premature babies with RDS would pass away due to complications.


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