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Brain Thermometer Detects Natural Microwaves

May 4, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology
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A new device precisely measures the temperature of the brain noninvasively, without a probe being inserted through the skull. It simply rests on a patient’s head and reads microwave emissions, which are produced naturally by all human tissue.

The warmer the tissue, the more intense the microwave emissions. The “thermometer,” the diameter of a poker chip, is calibrated to measure the temperature of brain matter 1.5 centimeters beneath the skull.

“This is the first time that anyone has presented data on the brain temperature of a human obtained noninvasively,” said Thomas Bass, MD, a neonatologist at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk, Virginia. Dr. Bass is also a professor of pediatrics at the affiliated Eastern Virginia Medical School. He was quoted in a CHKD news release via EurekAlert.

Dr. Bass led the team that developed the new device. He presented the researchers’ findings on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Denver.

And why do we need to precisely measure brain temperature? For some newborn babies, it can be the difference between life and a lingering death before the eyes of the child’s helpless, horrified parents.

When an infant suffers oxygen loss either immediately before or during birth, the child is at risk of continuing brain damage. Even if the child is immediately revived, a quirk in the brain may cause brain cells to continue to die over several days, resulting in significant brain damage and possibly even death.

Cooling therapy, which involves chilling the infant’s body to 92 degrees for 72 hours after brain injury, can reduce or stop the progression of brain cell death. But conventional body-temperature readings don’t show the brain temperature. Said Dr. Bass:

Knowing the actual brain temperature may allow us to improve outcomes by keeping the brain at an optimum temperature.

During a clinical trial, Dr. Bass said, the device was used on infants undergoing cooling therapy at CHKD. The difference between the brain temperature and the temperature recorded at the rectum or esophagus was as much as 5.4 percent on the Fahrenheit scale.

Related seminar: Neuroradiology Review

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