“In order to make diagnoses and quickly be able to see if the medication given is right for the brain, this information is very important in a neurointensive care unit.
Today magnetic resonance imaging scans and other examinations are carried out, but these are expensive, unreliable, time-consuming and only provide information about blood flow at the time of the examination. With this method we not only get information about blood flow in the brain directly and continuously; the information can also be stored, which means that we can review previous care more easily”, says Peter Reinstrup, a doctor at Skåne University Hospitals in Lund.
This technology will also facilitate research. Research and development on head traumas and brain haemorrhages based on cerebral blood flow, CBF, has stalled, precisely because it has been so difficult to determine blood flow in the brain, which is measured in millilitres per 100 g of brain per minute. In normal cases the value is around 50.
“If an individual suffers a head injury, e.g. after falling or receiving a knock on the head, the cerebral blood flow follows a course in which the flow varies with time. It is important for us to constantly regulate the flow so that it does not become too high, as the brain could then swell, or too low, as the brain could then suffer from a lack of oxygen”, explains Peter Reinstrup.
The technology came into existence as something of a happy coincidence and has been developed in collaboration between doctors, the hospital’s medical technology department and Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering.
It all began with doctors contacting Boris Magnusson, Professor of Computer Science at Lund University. The mathematical algorithm for calculating the blood flow and the volume of blood in the brain had been developed by Peter Reinstrup and Erik Ryding, doctors at Karolinska University Hospital in Solna, over the previous four or five years. However, they did not have a way to export and display patient data on blood flow. They had even engaged IT consultants, but without success. There had been a demand for a technical solution ever since 2002.
Boris Magnusson let two students, Karl Kullberg and Nick Bosma, in Computer Science and Engineering Physics respectively, take a closer look at the problem. In a joint degree project they succeeded, in collaboration with Jimmy Johansson at the hospital’s medical technology department, in developing a computer program that could retrieve and correlate the existing information about the pressure in the brain with information about blood volume and blood flow for each heartbeat.
Now there is a computer on the windowsills in the patients’ rooms at the neurointensive care unit in Lund. A patent application is pending and in the long term it is hoped that the method can be integrated with existing equipment, which would mean that it could also benefit other hospitals.
Degree project that solved the problem: Karl Kullberg, Computer Science, and Nick Bosma, Engineering Physics. Both will shortly be graduating from Lund University, but have already been offered jobs on a project to further develop the method to show the blood flow in the brain in real time. The project is financed by Vinnova and is run jointly by the Department of Computer Science at Lund University and Skåne University Hospitals in Lund. They will also study other medical technology systems and how these can be integrated smoothly.