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New Wireless Wearable Sensors Monitor Brain Blood Flow and Oxygenation in Vulnerable Pediatric Patients

December 23, 2020

An interdisciplinary team from Northwestern University and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago developed and clinically tested soft, flexible, miniaturized sensors that gently adhere to the child’s forehead to wirelessly monitor changes in cerebral blood flow and oxygenation, to alert clinicians of potential need to intervene and restore equilibrium. Findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“In our study, we validated the safety, accuracy and precision of these sophisticated wireless devices during continuous monitoring of pediatric patients, from infants to teenagers,” says co-senior author Debra E Weese-Mayer, MD, who led the clinical testing at Lurie Children’s. Dr. Weese-Mayer heads the division of Pediatric Autonomic Medicine and the Center for Autonomic Medicine in Pediatrics (CAMP) at Lurie Children’s and she is a Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “These new sensors will advance current state-of-the-art clinical practices for investigation of cerebral auto-regulation.

Replacing the tangle of wires that come with traditional monitoring devices, the new sensors and others designed in the Rogers laboratory/Weese-Mayer laboratory collaboration allow comfortable movement and simultaneous, continuous measures of cerebral and systemic hemodynamics, including cerebral oxygenation, heart rate, peripheral oxygenation, as well as vascular pulse pressure and tone. Such monitoring is essential for low birth-weight premature babies and children with congenital heart disease, traumatic brain injury, auto-regulatory disorders, and other patients at high risk for impaired cerebral autoregulation and long-term neurological damage.

The sensors were tested on patients aged 0.2-15 years with and without impaired cerebral autoregulation in the Center for Autonomic Medicine in Pediatrics at Lurie Children’s. Researchers found no negative skin effects during device operation.

“Introduction of the wireless, wearable cerebral regional blood flow/oxygenation device is a game-changer for the critical care and autonomic evaluation environments in-hospital among children and adults, but as importantly for patients of all ages with a broad array of diagnoses in the ambulatory setting.  Though it is traditional to think in terms of cardiorespiratory regulation and cardiovascular regulation, the new wireless, wearable device simplifies consideration of cardiovascular-cerebrovascular autoregulation.  If we could identify patterns of heightened vulnerability of cardio-cerebrovascular regulation we will have the opportunity for timely intervention—which will translate to decreased morbidity and mortality for patients of all ages,” says Dr. Weese-Mayer.

Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine, and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries.