Infrared Light Technology May Detect Brain Injury in Newborns

Researchers at University College London believe they’ve made a huge leap forward in detecting and treating birth injuries with the development of a new technology called NIRS. NIRS, broadband near-infrared spectroscopy, uses light to detect brain damage in infants. The research team is now planning a formal clinical trial of the device.

The NIRS spectroscopic method uses the near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum to literally shine a light into a newborn’s brain in order to measure its health. This allows doctors, pediatricians, and other specialists to recognize and diagnose any brain injuries, and work immediately to mitigate and treat the damage.

Early treatment of brain injuries is crucial

The health of your baby’s life in its first few hours, days, and weeks are critical. If your baby suffered a brain bleed or oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery, the doctor must know the extent of the birth injury in order to provide proper early intervention and appropriate treatment.

If an infant does suffer a brain injury during labor and childbirth, the effects can be significant and permanent. Loss of oxygen and damage to the brain can results in birth injuries like cerebral palsy, impaired vision, weakened body systems, organ failure, or death.

What is NIRS technology? How does it work?

The biggest value of the broadband near-infrared spectroscopy system, other than early detection, is that it’s non-invasive and portable. It’s developed for use immediately after birth. NIRS takes advantage of the fact that a baby’s skull and scalp is so thin, detecting oxygen and blood levels in a baby’s brain without having to use any invasive procedures.

The device is placed on the infant’s head, where it shines red and infrared light into their brain. It detects changes in brain oxygen levels and energy usage through differences in the color of the light reflected. Sensors on the device measure the reflected light to determine the health of the infant’s brain cells.

The less invasive the better, says Kathy Beardsall, a neonatologist from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. She tells the BBC, “In these vulnerable babies, being able to use a bedside, non-invasive technology would be a great advance in care. It overcomes the problem of having to wait and transfer babies off the intensive care unit for an MRI when they are more stable.”

When brain damage is detected early, doctors are able to intervene early and begin providing appropriate treatment. Dr. Gemma Bale is an engineer from University College London and is developing the device. She also spoke to the BBC about NIRS, explaining, “The first week after birth is a really critical time in babies’ development. If we are able to get in sooner to assess the damage, we can tailor treatment to save lives and help prevent disability further down the line.”

Some birth injuries are evident immediately after delivery. Some, however, may not be, and this is why early detection and intervention are so important. If your child suffered a birth injury during labor and delivery, talk to the attorneys at Crandall & Pera Law today for honest and skilled representation. Please call 877-686-8879, or fill out our contact form, and schedule your free consultation with an experienced lawyer at one of our offices in Ohio or Kentucky.