Here in the neonatal intensive care unit a new father is watching over his baby, who suffered a lack of oxygen to the brain when he was born

The doctors and nurses are using a special cooling treatment to try and prevent any further brain damage, but the baby needs to be closely monitored at this crucial time.

There are a lot of standard monitoring machines in the unit, but our new device – seen on the left – is an important new addition that allows doctors to directly measure changes in brain activity in a simple, non-invasive way.

Our engineers (left) are working with the doctor (right) to make sure that the machine is working correctly while a baby is being monitored.

The black cables are carrying near infrared light from our instrument, known as CYRIL, to shine onto the baby’s head. It’s completely harmless, just like shining a torch against the skin.

CYRIL measures the light that passes through the brain. It uses this information to calculate the oxygen and metabolism levels in the baby’s brain cells, which reflect whether they are healthy or damaged. These are displayed on the laptop so that the doctors can see the extent of the injury, and monitor how well the treatment is working.

After treatment, babies are taken to an MRI scanner in a special transport incubator. The MRI scan gives a highly detailed picture of any changes in brain metabolism and the level of damage. By comparing the results from CYRIL with these detailed scans, we can see whether our new technique is accurate and reliable.

We are using CYRIL to monitor babies who have suffered from a lack of oxygen during birth, assessing whether it can diagnose the level of brain injury in the first crucial days of life, while the baby is still undergoing intensive care.

Importantly, the technique can be used at the cotside in the intensive care unit, without having to move the baby for an MRI scan. It’s also cheap, safe and non-invasive, and can be used for continuous monitoring.

We hope that one day doctors will be able to use CYRIL to help diagnose and treat these babies more effectively, bringing life-saving and life-changing benefits to them and their families.

 

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