A new, non-invasive baby brain monitoring technique has been designed by Dr. Maria Angela Franceschini and a team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The new early warning system allows doctors to get information about blood flow and brain activity in newborns that quickly alerts them to when a baby might be trouble, allowing them to take fast action to help the child.
A baby’s cry isn’t necessarily all that informative, but the monitor alerts hospital staff to any newborn “who may be having seizures, cerebral hemorrhages, or other cerebral distresses,” Dr. Franceschini explained. In order to get the technique to other doctors faster, the team published the results in the video medical journal The Journal of Visualized Experiments.
What’s new about the technique is that it allows doctors to find out in a hurry if the infant’s brain is in danger, something that has been very difficult to do in the past. The system employs near-infrared spectroscopy in combination with diffuse correlation spectroscopy — optical tools that allows doctors to read the information from heat and light from the baby’s brain without actually opening the skull.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained that about 25,000 babies die each year in the United States. Premature babies, newborns with a serious birth defect, and children of mothers who have experienced serious complications in pregnancy represent a large proportion of the victims.
Emergency personnel can even make the occasional error, such as the recent case in Toronto where a baby born outdoors in the cold was pronounced dead — only to revive a couple of hours later while police officers were awaiting a coroner to remove the body.
In some of those cases, Dr. Franceschini’s new technique might help doctors get a better idea of what’s going on in the newborn’s brain. Unlike some previous systems, it gives multiple images of the brain’s blood flow and the use of oxygen.
The team plans to develop the the non-invasive baby brain monitoring system to the point where it can be used by nurses.
[crying baby photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons]