Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

HEALTHCARE AND TECHNOLLOGY Hand in Hand toward the Future

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

HEALTHCARE AND TECHNOLLOGY Hand in Hand toward the Future

Article excerpt

Advances in technology have always impacted treatments, and within the last decade, they have been breathtaking in their scope. Every day, a breakthrough occurs or a novel treatment is discovered. From scientific theory to noninvasive blood monitoring, here are some of the new, technology-driven advances in healthcare.

Technology is applied science

With the help of computers, two researchers are applying chaos theory to predict some epileptic seizures. Dr. Chris J. Sackellares, a neurologist at the Malcolm Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center and professor of neurology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and Dr. Leonard D. Iasemidis, research engineer and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Florida, presented their method of predicting certain types of seizures at the December meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.

The two doctors have used the principles of chaos theory (a mathematical approach used to find patterns in seemingly random events), to recognize changes in brain activity that occur prior to the onset of a seizure. Their first goal was to identify a pre-seizure transition period. They used EEGs to monitor the electrical activity in brains of people with epilepsy. At the end of a 10-day period, they were able to identify a "danger zone" that develops within minutes or hours before a seizure.

The two researchers theorize that a seizure occurs as a natural function of the body to correct anomalies in the neural system. They found that a build-up of organized, harmonious brain signals is predictive of seizure activity. From this finding, they hope to identify a window of opportunity during which a seizure can be prevented. Their work could one day result in implantable devices that monitor brain activity, detect threatening patterns, and delivery therapy.

Getting a better look at fetuses for diagnosis and treatment

While ultrasound remains the most commonly used method of prenatal diagnosis and screening, it often provides only limited information regarding some types of fetal anomalies. Often, anatomical details that affect the prognosis of the fetus are difficult to see using conventional ultrasound methods. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has recently started using ultrafast, prenatal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as an adjunct to ultrasound for prenatal diagnosis of some disorders.

In the past, traditional MRI scans were limited because of fetal movement. Maternal sedation and fetal immobilization were needed to obtain useful images. The ultrafast MRI uses FDA-approved imaging sequences that take less than one second to perform, decreasing the chance that fetal movement will alter the scan's quality and eliminating the need for maternal sedation.

The ultrafast MRI provides images of fetal organs that can help physicians differentiate between, for example, teratoma and cystic hygroma in neck masses, and allow them to plan for airway management at birth.

Candidates for fetal MRI scanning are usually fetal surgery candidates undergoing evaluation for a potentially correctable congenital anomaly. Prenatal MRI is especially helpful for viewing anatomic definition, verifying a diagnosis, and identifying abnormalities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Annual Meeting reviewed medical procedures that can now be performed on fetuses. For examples, a fetus infected with parvovirus B19 will develop severe aplastic anemia. Pregnant women who test positive for parvovirus infection can have their fetuses monitored via ultrasound or MRI, and if necessary, the fetus can be treated by in utero transfusion. Obstruction of the fetal urethra can be treated by catheter drainage of the fetal bladder, and diaphragmatic hernia can be treated by plugging the fetal trachea, and promoting lung growth.

Pulsed low-intensity ultrasound for healing fractures

Pulsed, low-intensity ultrasound is being considered as a noninvasive treatment for fractures that do not heal properly. …

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