New MRI scan for babies with brain injuries

Scientists have recently revealed that they are pioneering and soon will be trialling a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan for babies with brain injuries, to help predict the long term outlook.

Currently, babies treated for hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE), a type of brain damage that occurs when a baby does not receive enough oxygen or blood, are given a scan after five days.

These scans can assess the severity of a brain injury and can help diagnose conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Initial treatment for HIE is delivered on specialist neonatal intensive care units and consists of cooling the baby from 37 to 33.5 degrees for 72 hours. This treatment helps improve survival rates and reduces the risk of cerebral palsy and severe developmental delay.

Moving forward, scientists will be adapting the MRI to measure the blood flow and neural connections in the brain. This new MRI technique will be added to the end of the current scan and the new-born patients will be asleep and unaware of the additional tests.

Dr Brigitte Vollmer, a consultant in neonatal neurology, at Southampton Children’s Hospital, said: “We will investigate whether or not there is a correlation between the results of measurements made in sensitive brain regions and how children progress with their development.

“If that proves to be the case, we will be able to accurately predict the longer-term prognosis for these babies and intervene sooner to address issues that are likely to develop later on.”