New Device Measures Brain Oxygen Levels

Technique could make surgery safer, study suggests

SATURDAY, Oct. 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A near-infrared laser device that measures brain oxygen levels may offer a safer, more effective option than the more invasive methods currently used to monitor brain oxygen levels during surgery, says a Duke University Medical Center study.

Researchers tested the device, called a cerebral oximeter, on 12 healthy volunteers and said the results showed the device offers the potential for accurate and reliable brain oxygenation monitoring during surgery in order to protect patients against anoxia (reduced oxygen levels) that can cause cognitive impairment.

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to CAS, which makes the cerebral oximeter.

The cerebral oximeter monitors brain oxygen levels through one or more sensors attached to a patient's forehead. These sensors emit non-harmful, low-level laser light through the skin and skull and into the brain. The system calculates brain oxygen levels by measuring the intensity of the light as it passes through the brain.

The current methods of monitoring blood oxygen levels include taking blood samples during surgery or using a pulse oximeter, which attaches to the patient's finger. However, neither of these methods offer direct or immediate information about brain oxygen levels, the researchers said.

"It has always been a challenge to directly measure the oxygen levels in the brain. The main issues with the invasive approach are that it does not provide specific information in real time, and it is, of course, invasive, which can carry some risk to the patient," Duke anesthesiologist Dr. David MacLeod said in a prepared statement.

"This new technology, which is non-invasive and provides real-time information, appears to be an accurate means for measuring cerebral oxygenation and indirectly cerebral profusion. As anesthesiologists, protecting the brain from potential harm is one of the main functions we perform during a surgical procedure," MacLeod said.

The study was to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in Atlanta.

More Information

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has more about anesthesia.

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, Oct. 22, 2005
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