Touching Lives - October 2012
Seizures in babies
Over 2,000 newborn babies suffer seizures each year in the UK, yet a lack of obvious warning signs means seizures often strike unexpectedly.
Action Medical Research has awarded funding to researchers to develop a cutting-edge technique that could help improve earlier detection. Seizures pose a particular threat to premature babies or those who have suffered from a lack of oxygen during birth. Researchers from The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge hope a treatment combining brain imaging with monitoring electrical activity will enable more babies to benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.
Lead researcher Dr Topun Austin says: “Seizures remain a major challenge when caring for newborn babies. They result from abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain but can be difficult to diagnose, as babies do not necessarily have any obvious symptoms. Abnormal movements may be subtle or not even present.”
When babies have a seizure oxygen levels also change, so the researchers are monitoring this with their new optical system, which works by shining a harmless and non-invasive near-infrared light into the brain. This combined technique could help reveal what’s happening inside the brain during seizures and ultimately improve diagnosis.
This information could then be used to develop a new routine technique that could be used by a baby’s cot, helping to boost a vulnerable baby’s chance of life. The technique could also be used to help other people with seizures or epilepsy.