MRI scans predict brain damage in babies | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - March 2004

MRI scans predict brain damage in babies

It is thought that clots of blood or small pieces of tissue from the placenta get into the bloodstream and pass through to the arteries going to the brain.

Using MRI scans taken soon after birth, an Action Medical Research team has been able to predict accurately, for the first time, the extent of movement disability in young children who have suffered such a stroke.

The team, based at the Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte Hospitals and Imperial College in London, studied 22 children in the project. They were all born at full term mostly to first-time mothers. ^The babies usually appeared well at birth but started to have fits within the next 12-36 hours^. MRI scans done soon after the fits showed that these children had suffered brain damage on one side of the brain due to a stroke that happened around the time of birth.

The researchers examined MRI scans of the babies’ heads to identify the areas where brain damage had occurred. The babies’ progress was then monitored as they got older. Using this information, the team has shown that the predictions they made soon after birth of whether a child would go on to develop mobility problems proved accurate.

Enabling interventions

Lead researcher Dr Frances Cowan told Touching Lives, “We have been able to show which injuries to the brain result in the most debilitating conditions. Knowing early on exactly what physical outcome is likely for the child will enable interventions to be made to maximise the potential that every child has.

“It is especially important for parents and teachers to know that a child, who for the most part appears quite normal, has a genuine reason for movement difficulties. If they are slower or not so neat and tidy this is not just carelessness. They should not be reprimanded and they may need some extra time and support.

“What is remarkable is how well many of the children do and part of our ongoing studies involves using tests that help us to try and understand how these children cope with their stroke. We hope these studies will assist us in knowing what interventions are most beneficial.”

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