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Researchers suggest brain scans for babies reduce risk of stroke later in life

Researchers suggest brain scans for babies reduce risk of stroke later in life
Comparison figures showing the trend of occurrence of cerebral aneurysms at different age group from 1761 to 2019. (A)The values of the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles, as well as the minimum and maximum observed all ages of patients with aneurysms, from 1761 to 1938. (B) The values of the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles, as well as the minimum and maximum observed patients with >18 years of age with aneurysms, recorded from 1761 to 1938 and 2011 to 2019 in Royal Adelaide Hospital. Credit: BMJ Open (2024). DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-081290

Noninvasive brain scans for children under the age of 1 could identify risk factors and reduce the potential for stroke later in life, say researchers at the University of South Australia.

In a novel study, researchers found that despite improvements in medicine, brain patterns have remained steady over time, meaning that variations in brain vessels could be easily detected early in life.

Published in BMJ Open, the study examined 260 years of data to systematically assess long-term trends of brain aneurysms, which can be a cause of .

Globally, stroke is the second leading cause of death. Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are left permanently disabled, placing a significant burden on families, the community, and the economy.

In Australia, statistics show that stroke kills more women than , and more men than prostate cancer. Among the population in Australia, a stroke occurs every 19 minutes.

More than 80% of stokes can be prevented. The estimated cost of a single stroke is approximately $300,000 in Australia, so identifying early signs is not only a key to prevention, but a step toward saving the economy millions.

Lead researcher and neuroanatomy expert, UniSA's Senior Lecturer in Anatomy and Neuroanatomy Dr. Arjun Burlakoti, says detecting variations in brain vessels in children could prevent stroke late in life.

"A cerebral—or brain—aneurysm is a bulge in the artery to the brain. It's caused by a weakness in an artery wall. And if a cerebral aneurysm bursts, it could cause a stroke," Dr. Burlakoti says.

"Cerebral aneurysms can develop at any age. And while the most common age for diagnosis is between 31 and 60 years, the incidence of childhood brain aneurysms is almost equivalent to that of adults. The incidence of childhood aneurysms can be comparable to that in adults because the childhood period of life is much shorter than adulthood.

"Our study not only shows that aneurysms occur and rupture on their internal circumstances, but also that any brain vessel variations are likely to be present from birth.

"What this means is that if we can identify variations in the brain arterial network in childhood, we can more actively monitor and check at-risk people throughout their life."

The researchers recommend using a noninvasive, transcranial Doppler ultrasound to scan babies and children for brain vessel variations. This painless test uses to examine blood flow in and around the brain and detect variations in the blood vessels.

They say that the could enable timely intervention and potentially prevent aneurysms and stroke-related complications.

"Screening variant arterial components in children, particularly those under 2 years old, could be a practical tool for screening variant brain arteries," Dr. Burlakoti says.

"This is a safe, noninvasive screening test that presents a path for families to regularly follow-up if any variations are detected.

"If you could reduce the risk through a simple screening test, why wouldn't you?"

More information: Arjun Burlakoti et al, Trend of cerebral aneurysms over the past two centuries: need for early screening, BMJ Open (2024). DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-081290

Journal information: BMJ Open
Citation: Researchers suggest brain scans for babies reduce risk of stroke later in life (2024, May 21) retrieved 23 June 2024 from
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