The BBC reported in September 2018 that University College London has created a new medical device that can literally shine light into the diagnosis of newborn’s oxygen and energy levels. The device, called a broadband near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), may help physicians assess whether the newborn has brain damage earlier than usual. A clinical study is now in the works to further examine how well the NIRS can help.
A lack of oxygen during a delivery can cause cerebral palsy and other traumatic brain injuries. Serious brain injuries can prevent a baby from living a normal life. Many newborns who suffer a brain injury require a lifetime of medical care including treatment with numerous doctors and therapists. Even a mild brain injury can significantly reduce a child’s quality of life.
Statistically, the BBC reports, about 3 in 1,000 newborns in England suffer a brain injury because of a lack of oxygen; 1 in 10 of these newborns dies. Over half develop physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. In the U.S., the numbers seem to be a bit higher: about 4 out of every 1,000 full-term births have a child who suffered from oxygen deprivation, leading to some kind of brain injury.
The use of light detection
Before the introduction of the NIRS device, doctors often had to wait days before they could conduct an MRI scan on the child to see if the baby had a brain injury, because a few days were needed to stabilize the infant. While doctors had used light sensors to “measure tissue oxygen levels,” the new device also allows doctors to measure the brain cell’s energy levels.
Dr. Gemma Bale, an engineer from the University College London said the NIRS is placed on the infant’s head and “shines red and infra-red light into the brain.” If there is change in the brain’s energy usage or oxygen level, the light that is reflected back changes color. Sensors measure the amount of light that is reflected to analyze the amount of damage.
Dr. Bale explained that the sooner brain damage can be assessed, the better and earlier treatments can be used to reduce the risk of death and help prevent disabilities, which can alter a child’s life forever.
According to neonatologist Dr. Kathy Beardsall, the NRIS is a non-invasive technology which works better than an MRI which requires waiting until the newborn is removed from intensive care.
The UCL clinical study will determine how well the device can be used to help infants when a brain injury is suspected.
At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our Memphis birth injury lawyers work with physicians to verify whether a medical error caused your child’s injuries. We work with neurologists, neurosurgeons, and other doctors to verify that a brain injury could have been prevented during birth. To speak with experienced medical malpractice lawyers now, please call us in Memphis or Jackson at 901-475-7434, or complete our contact form to discuss your case. We represent newborns and the parents of newborns when medical error causes a brain injury or any type of birth injury.