New Tools To Combat Brain Injury During Heart Surgery
Heart surgery poses a number of risks for patients. One risk that may be underestimated by patients and their families is the risk of brain injury. This risk may be particularly high for infant patients whose brains are still developing and whose bodies may not bear up well under the rigors of surgery. According to one expert, roughly 40 percent of infants who undergo heart surgery will have brain abnormalities show up in later MRI scans. Many of these injuries are the result of strokes. The result can be permanent harm done to the mental and physical development of the child.
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A research team from Johns Hopkins University has developed a biosensor device aimed at helping doctors detect serious brain injuries during heart surgery. The device is designed to identify the presence of a protein that has been associated with brain injury. If the protein is present, harm is too.
How Does It Work?
Eventually, a biosensor could be routinely used to detect oncoming brain injury. The following are representative of some features that would need to be present for a biosensor to be considered successful:
- It should be highly specific for what is being analyzed
- The device should be cheap, small, and easy to use
- The device should be durable and capable of repeated use
- The test should be rapid, accurate, and repeatable
- The device should be stable and able to be sterilized
If doctors were able to identify when a brain injury is occurring, they may be able to improve heart procedures to protect vulnerable patients. Brain injuries pose several challenges to proper treatment and identification due to the way they present in patients. Some symptoms of brain injury may not appear until years after the injury occurred. Some brain injury symptoms clear up rapidly while others linger for years.
Multiple Biosensor Uses
The research team speculated that the biosensor may be useful in areas outside of heart surgery procedures. It may allow for the rapid detection of brain injuries in car accident victims or athletes who have suffered blows to the head. Rapid detection could vastly improve the treatment of brain injury victims.