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New Sensors Could Help Doctors To Monitor Patients With Traumatic Brain Injuries

Neurosurgeons and engineers based at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois have developed a wireless brain sensor with the ability to monitor brain injuries. Moreover, as it’s fully absorbable, it means that the patient doesn’t have to undergo surgery to have it removed. These new sensors could potentially be used for monitoring people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, as they enable both pressure and temperature in the brain to be monitored.

Lead author of the study, Rory K. J. Murphy, explained that there have been rapid advancements in the development of such electronic devices. Although previously, implants have often triggered an immune response in patients, as these new devices dissolve over a period of time, they reduce the potential of infections, chronic inflammation and erosion of the area where the implant has been placed. Furthermore, as the device dissolves, there’s no need for surgical intervention to remove it after its work is done.

Doctors can currently only measure an increase in pressure using a device which is large and is based on technology dating back to the 1980’s

When patients arrive at hospital with a traumatic brain injury, if there’s an increase in pressure within the brain and skull, it can potentially lead to further brain injury; therefore it’s vital that doctors can accurately measure the intracranial pressure. Currently there is no way to measure this from brain scans or from clinical symptoms, the doctors have to rely on devices which are not only large, with wires to connect them to monitors, but which are based on technology dating back to the 1980s.

By collaborating with engineers from the University of Illinois, Murphy has been able to build a new type of sensor made from polylactic-co-glycolic acid and silicone which is able to transmit a variety of accurate information, including pressure and temperature readings, making it suitable for many areas of clinical care. The sensors were tested in baths of saline solution to see how quickly they dissolved, before being implanted in the brains of lab rats.

The next step will be to test this new technology in patients, with the ultimate aim being to develop a device that can be placed in the brain which can provide information on the current health status of the organ. This will enable strategic intervention by doctors during brain injuries in order to prevent the problem from escalating. Once the danger period has passed, the device will then simply dissolve without a trace.

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