Background: Changes in regional brain blood flow and hemoglobin oxygen saturation occur in the human cortex in response to neural activation. Traditional functional radiologic methods cannot provide continuous, portable measurements. Imaging methods, which use near-infrared light allow for non-invasive measurements by taking advantage of the fact that hemoglobin is a strong absorber at these wavelengths.
Aims: To test the feasibility of a new optical functional imaging system in premature infants, and to obtain preliminary brain imaging of passive motor activation in this population.
Methods: A new optical imaging system, the Diffuse Optical Tomography System (DOTS), was used to provide real-time, bedside assessments. Custom-made soft flexible fiberoptic probes were placed on two extremely ill, mechanically ventilated 24 week premature infants, and three healthier 32 week premature infants. Passive motor stimulation protocols were used during imaging.
Results: Specific movement of the arm resulted in reproducible focal, contralateral changes in cerebral absorption. The data suggest an overall increase in blood volume to the imaged area, as well as an increase in deoxyhemoglobin concentration. These findings in premature infants differ from those expected in adults.
Conclusions: In the intensive care setting, continuous non-invasive optical functional imaging could be critically important and, with further study, may provide a bedside monitoring tool for prospectively identifying patients at high risk for brain injury.
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