New technology offers hope for brain injury detection and treatment

Individuals impacted by brain damage often suffer permanent and debilitating injuries that deeply affect their quality of life. In cases where a brain injury is the result of a medical error, the extent of damage and a patient’s prognosis is often unknown and may take months or even years to assess. As with most injuries, early detection and diagnosis are critical in improving a brain injury patient’s long-term outcome.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently announced they have developed a sensor that may aid doctors in detecting when a patient has suffered a brain injury. Through a single drop of blood, the sensor is able to detect a protein called glial fibrillary acidic protein that doctors and researchers have previously linked to being present when an individual suffers a brain injury.

One of the doctors who helped spur the development of the new technology is a pediatric cardiologist who believes it can greatly improve the lives and outcomes of some of the smallest cardiac patients. A reported 40 percent of infants who undergo heart surgeries suffer brain damage and brain injuries. In many cases, however, the extent of an infant’s brain injury isn’t truly known or realized until many years later.

If a doctor is able to quickly detect a brain injury during or immediately after a surgery, appropriate steps could be taken to intervene and improve a patient’s long-term prognosis and outcome. Likewise, by studying when and why these brain injuries occur, doctors can adjust and improve how they treat patients, particularly infants who are especially fragile and vulnerable. The researchers and doctors who have worked to develop the biosensor are hopeful it will one day be readily used in operating rooms and doctors offices.

Source: Laboratory Equipment magazine, “Biosensor Can Make Heart Surgery Safer for Brain,” Johns Hopkins University press release, Nov. 12, 2013