There are many diagnostic tests that can be used to confirm whether a child sustained an ECMO brain injury. In many cases, doctors will use ultrasounds or CT scans to monitor oxygen levels in a baby’s brain during ECMO treatment. However, a recent study has found that there may be a much simpler way to discover if an infant is on the brink of brain damage as a result of oxygen loss.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center have recently shown that high levels of a protein commonly found in the central nervous system can help predict brain injury and prevent death in children on extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) devices.
Scientists tested 22 ECMO patients from two days to nine-years-old for the presence of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in their blood. GFAP levels are commonly used to measure neurologic damage in adults who have suffered strokes or traumatic brain injuries. They discovered that patients with abnormally high levels of GFAP were 11 times more likely to suffer brain injury—and 13 times more likely to die—than children with normal GFAP levels.
These findings may decrease risks to children on ECMO, as it gives doctors a faster way to detect changes in a baby’s brain. By conclusively measuring brain status without an hours-long imaging test, doctors can quickly respond to the child’s oxygen and health needs, increasing the chances of full recovery.
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