Healthcare Technology Featured Article

March 15, 2012

New Sensor Device for Brain Surgery Patients Allows for Remote Monitoring While They Move Around

If you are unfortunate enough to have a brain injury that requires surgery, a pilot study in Operative Neurosurgery suggests that a new implantable sensor device will make it possible for you to avoid the more invasive alternative for monitoring pressure within the skull, and, even better, be monitored from home, a press release revealed.

Operative Neurosurgery is a quarterly supplement to Neurosurgery, the official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, which is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

Controlling ICP is a critical factor in the management of patients with hydrocephalus and certain other conditions.

In the past, brain-injured patients often required a catheter inside the spaces of the brain, a procedure which was highly invasive and often allowed for infection and other complications. But the new method, it provides patients who have the sensor implanted in their brains with the same kind of monitoring as the catheter.

"This new telemetric system was safe and effective for intracranial pressure (ICP) measurement over a long period, including home monitoring," the press release reports that Dr. Stefan Welschehold of University Medicine Mainz, Germany said of the study.

In fact, researchers remotely evaluated the ICP monitoring system in ten patients who had previously had brain surgery.  The patients — including some as young as three — were suffering from hydrocephalus (fluid buildup inside the skull), placing them at increased risk of further brain damage. “Abnormally high ICP is a serious medical problem, with the potential to cause brain damage and death,” the release reports.

The telemetric ICP monitoring device is an inch-long miniature probe connected to a disk-shaped transducer. All that’s required for a patient to be implanted with the device is a simple surgical procedure, where the probe tip is inserted into the brain through a small hole in the skull, and the transducer is set under the scalp.

To measure ICP values, a recording device is placed over the implanted sensor and transducer, and the patient can go anywhere and still be monitored because the recording device is battery-powered, though the device must be connected to a computer at least once every three weeks to clear space for data storage. The device works even through bandages.

Eleanor McDermid posts that the researchers noted that ICP measurement done the traditional way is bulky and awkward for patients, can only be used short-term and must be done in the hospital.

The new way of monitoring patients has proved to be safe and accurate.

In the pilot, seven out of ten patients who were monitored this way showed no abnormal increases in ICP and no need for further surgery. These patients were able to have the monitoring probe eventually removed. In some cases, “monitoring detected normal and temporary increases in ICP related to factors like position changes, exercise, or crying in children.”

The remaining three patients weren’t quite so lucky. Their monitoring showed “persistent or recurrent increases in pressure inside the skull, and alerted doctors that further surgery was required.”

"The main advantage of this new telemetric ICP-monitoring system is the possibility of long-term measurement under daily life conditions," Dr. Welschehold and coauthors concluded.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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