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New Device Lets Docs 'Tune In' to Brain Blood Flow During Cardiac Surgery

Noninvasive method provides accurate, real-time measurement

Researchers at the Western and Lawson Health Research Institute (LHRI) in Ontario, Canada, are developing a new technology that may change the way patients undergoing cardiac surgery are monitored and managed in the hospital.

The device, known as CerOx, noninvasively monitors cerebral blood flow and helps physicians and nurses assess brain perfusion in real time. Lead researcher Dr. John Murkin said this information could be used to support critical treatment decisions made to protect the patient from potential complications.

“We use near-infrared light routinely in all hospitals to measure oxygen saturation in the brain. That’s been out for 30 years,” Murkin said. “This new device is not just measuring oxygen saturation; it’s also measuring blood flow to the brain, in real time, and noninvasively. If a patient has a brain injury, the more you know about the brain, the better you are at being tuned in to their needs.”

Murkin has studied cognitive and neurologic outcomes in cardiac surgery for more than 30 years. He said there has been an unmet clinical need for a noninvasive tool that provides accurate, real-time measurements of cerebral blood flow in these highly vulnerable patients.

The CerOx device uses weak acoustic beams to identify light emerging from deep tissue layers. Currently, 11 studies are evaluating the new technology.

In a 2004 study published in Seminars in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia, Murkin and his co-authors reported that cerebral monitoring significantly reduced complications, including permanent stroke, in patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

“We’ve seen the potential of the machine, and we’re convinced it works,” Murkin said. “If you can monitor in real time, you can act in real time.”

The device is expected to be used primarily by physicians in neurologic critical care areas.

“While the device can alert you to potential problems, the next part is what are you going to do about it? You still need to act,” Murkin added. “We want to start looking at what are some of the therapeutic interventions we can use to improve outcomes.”

Sources: Ornim Medical; September 26, 2014; and MedicalXpress; September 26, 2014.

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