Researchers developing device to detect brain bleeding in pre-term infants

September 27, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Nearly one-third of premature babies develop bleeding in the brain after birth, a problem associated with serious long-term effects such as cerebral palsy, seizures and blindness.

But some of these devastating complications could be prevented if physicians could catch and treat such hemorrhaging, also called intraventricular , when it begins. To this end, University of Florida researchers from the colleges of Medicine and Engineering have received a two-year, $694,000 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in collaboration with EGI Inc. to develop a device that not only monitors preemies' fragile brains, but also detects intraventricular bleeding as soon as it starts. The research also will give physicians a more detailed understanding and timeline of how and when typically occur in babies.

"When we look at with intraventricular hemorrhages, we detect them after the fact, so we really don't know what is happening in the brain at the time of the ," said Dr. Michael Weiss, a and an associate professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine who has teamed with biomedical engineer Dr. Rosalind Sadleir, of the College of Engineering, on the project. "If we can identify the exact moment when a bleed occurs, we may be able to develop therapies that can help prevent bad outcomes from happening."

The researchers will employ a technique known as electrical impedance tomography, or EIT. Using this method, they will be able to view 3-D reconstructions of bleeding inside the brain at any given moment, said Sadleir, who specializes in the use of EIT to detect bleeding inside the body.

To collect data within the brain, tiny electrodes are placed on the head. For babies, the researchers plan to use eight electrodes, which they aim to place on an easy-to-apply bandage.

"We collect 182 measurements in the head, and from that we make our picture," Sadleir said.

While babies are hooked up to the electrodes, their brains will be continually scanned for signs of bleeding. If bleeding reaches a risky level, an alert will sound, similar to other devices used to monitor in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Bleeding in the brain is typically detected through routine ultrasounds performed about seven to 14 days after a premature baby is born, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most of the time there are no other symptoms that alert doctors to the bleeding.

"If we detect bleeding right when it starts, we have a much better chance of mitigating ill effects and also preventing other secondary conditions that happen after a bleed," Sadleir said.

EIT is used commercially in lung monitoring, specifically to measure lung activity when patients are placed on ventilators to assist their breathing.

Unlike magnetic resonance imaging or CT scans, the images created through EIT sometimes look a little fuzzy because electrical currents do not travel in straight lines, Sadleir said. But the health care team won't analyze the images in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU; instead, the readings will translate to a number. This number will be compared with an acceptable baseline. When bleeding is detected, the health team can then review the image and conduct an ultrasound to more accurately pinpoint the problem.

"We do a lot of general monitoring in the NICU, but we don't look at a lot of the end organs, such as the brain," Weiss said. "We are starting to find out more and more about babies by using brain-specific monitoring. This knowledge may improve outcomes in pre-term babies."

Explore further: Novel respiratory monitor for premature babies ready for FDA review

Related Stories

Novel respiratory monitor for premature babies ready for FDA review

April 4, 2012
Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a novel device to continuously and systematically monitor the dynamics of premature babies' breathing. The small, noninvasive device dubbed "Pneumonitor," ...

Pregnancy ups bleed risk from abnormal brain blood vessels

August 14, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Pregnant women are at higher risk of bleeding in the brain from vessel abnormalities known as arteriovenous malformations, a new study indicates.

LA hospital prepares to send tiny baby home

January 20, 2012
(AP) -- One of the world's smallest surviving babies is headed home.

A new EEG shows how brain tracts are formed

February 18, 2012
In the past few years, researchers at the University of Helsinki have made several breakthroughs in discovering how the brain of preterm babies work, in developing treatments to protect the brain, and in developing research ...

Recommended for you

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.