Technology with attitude

Noninvasive Brain Thermometer

Non-invasive brain-temperature monitoring could be critical in life-saving cooling therapy. Doctors have long sought a way to directly measure the brain’s temperature without inserting a probe through the skull. Now researchers have developed a way to get the brain’s precise temperature with a device the diameter of a poker-chip that rests on a patient’s head, according to findings presented May 1 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Denver.

“This is the first time that anyone has presented data on the brain temperature of a human obtained non-invasively,” said principal researcher Dr, Thomas Bass, a neonatologist at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, and a professor of pediatrics at the hospital’s academic partner, Eastern Virginia Medical School.

The research also suggests that an injured brain can be significantly warmer than the body, a finding critical to cooling therapies that reduce brain damage in everyone from elderly heart attack victims to hypoxic newborns.

“Knowing the actual brain temperature may allow us to improve outcomes by keeping the brain at an optimum temperature,” said Dr. Bass.

With the help of a $750,000 National Institutes of Health grant, a research team led by Dr. Bass adapted an instrument that calculates temperatures by detecting microwave emissions produced by all human tissue. Those microwaves pass unimpeded through the skull, like light passing through a sheet of glass. As tissue temperatures increase, the emissions grow more intense. Engineers calibrated the device to measure the temperature of brain tissue 1.5 centimeters beneath the skull.

The device will be used in cooling therapys that showed that cooling the patients’ brain stops or reduces the progression of brain cell death, drastically reducing brain damage and death. The results were so positive that the therapy is now standard in advanced neonatal intensive-care units worldwide. Cooling therapy is also used with heart attack victims whose brains have suffered oxygen deprivation.

Because cooling therapy’s success relies on the temperature of the brain, precise readings of the brain’s temperature is likely to improve a therapy that’s already proven remarkably effective.

Original press release: http://www.eurekalert.org

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