After a difficult birth, many infants spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) under the watchful eye of medical specialists. A new bedside light could detect brain injuries in babies sooner, which could have a tremendous impact on NICU stays and overall outcomes.
Read on to learn more about the new technology and the benefits of detecting brain injuries as soon as possible. If you believe that your child has suffered a brain injury and have questions about your legal rights, contact Brown & Brothers to learn more.
New Bedside Light Could Detect Brain Injuries in Babies Sooner
Researchers at University College London have developed a medical device that shines light into the brain. This light monitors brain energy and oxygen levels. Using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), the device could help doctors monitor infants, assess brain damage, and individualize treatment more accurately. Remember shining a flashlight against your hand as a child and the way that your skin seemed to glow red? That’s exactly what the NIRS instrument can do, but on a much deeper level.
Using light to measure oxygen levels is not a new technology, but light technology used to monitor brain activity and brain oxygen levels is new. Generally, doctors have had to wait several days or even weeks before they could perform an MRI on a newborn and confirm brain injuries. The new NIRS instrument can be used immediately after birth with little risk.
The NIRS instrument is placed on the infant’s head, and shines both red and infra-red light. The light easily penetrates the skin and highlights the brain. Changes in brain energy and oxygen levels reflect the light back in different colors, allowing doctors to monitor what is happening. By measuring the reflected light, doctors can determine if the brain is healthy or damaged.
Significant Impact of NIRS Instrument Technology
The NIRS instrument and technology could have a tremendous impact on how NICU’s across the globe monitor brain activity and oxygen levels. Because it can be used immediately after birth, it could provide doctors with a diagnosis much sooner, allowing for earlier intervention and treatment. The first week after a baby is born is the most critical for development, and the NIRS technology could help doctors prevent disability and save lives.
The U.S. and the United Kingdom (U.K.) have been working for years to better understand brain injuries and find more stable methods of detecting and treating them. This attention could be attributed to the high number of brain injuries reported. Consider the following:
- According to the National Neonatal Database, approximately three out of every 1,000 babies born in England suffer a brain injury during, or shortly after birth. The majority of these injuries are caused by a lack of oxygen.
- In the U.S., approximately four out of every 1,000 babies (born at term) suffer a brain injury due to a lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen causing brain injuries can occur before, during, or shortly after delivery.
It could also be attributed to the high number of premature births, or births occurring before 37 weeks gestation. Premature infants are more likely to experience brain injuries, which is definitely cause for concern considering the following:
- In the U.S., around one in 10 infants were born prematurely in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that number has continued to increase since 2016.
- In England, as many as 26 out of every 1,000 births are premature, or before 37 weeks.
Doctors in England are working to start a clinical trial of the NIRS instrument in hospitals to see how the technology could benefit in detecting brain injuries and improving the care of infants who are suspected to have a brain injury.
Get Help with Your Infant Brain Injury Questions or Concerns
For a parent, there is little that is more devastating than finding out your newborn was injured during birth. If your child suffered a brain injury, you likely have many questions and concerns about how the injury will impact your child now and in the future. You may find yourself questioning the actions of your doctors and nurses, and may be concerned about the level of care you and your child received.
At Brown & Brothers, we understand the difficulties you are experiencing, and we are here to offer more than just legal advice. We are here to help you sort through your situation and protect your family’s future. To learn more about brain injuries, how to get help, or what to do if you suspect medical malpractice, browse our website. You can also schedule a free case review with one of our medical malpractice attorneys by filling out our online form.