Imaging Software Helps Track, Treat Injured Brains

WEDNESDAY Sept. 12, 2007 -- New software now allows doctors to monitor blood flow through the brain in real time, potentially preventing brain damage and death in children with head injuries.

Brain trauma is a top killer of children in the Unites States. Almost 475,000 children suffer brain injuries annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With traumatic brain injuries, much of the damage and related deaths occur within two to five days of injury. That's the window of time during which monitoring brain function is most useful.

The new software could also help monitor premature babies, who are at increased risk for ischemic strokes and bleeding in the brain.

The research, which includes testing of the software on baby pigs, was expected to be published in the October issue of Stroke.

"More tests are needed, but we have demonstrated the value of gathering much more detailed information over time about what safe levels of pressure and oxygen are in children," Dr. Ken Brady, a critical-care specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said in a prepared statement.

According to Brady, the new software will help researchers and doctors develop a map identifying safe pressure levels in various parts of the brain. Healthy brains manage levels of blood flow and oxygen during sharp changes in blood pressure. However, brains can lose this ability after injury, leading to permanent brain damage.

The software draws information from traditional arterial blood pressure monitors and oxygen meters that use beams of infrared light to estimate the brain's oxygen saturation. Using that data, the computer checks changes in blood pressure and oxygen levels every 60 seconds and alerts doctors when they approach critical levels.

"This intricate interplay between oxygenation and blood flow was the big unknown in what is indeed a simple equation, and now we've pinpointed the level where arterial blood pressure needs to be in order to promote healing in the injured brain," Brady said.

More information

For more on traumatic brain injury, visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Posted: September 2007


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