The opportunity to apply her physics background to real-life medical problems is what drew Robarts Imaging M.Sc. student Jessica Kishimoto to the city-wide Biomedical Imaging Research Centre (BIRC). Her research focuses on new technologies to help diagnose and monitor bleeding in the brain in very low birth weight, pre-term newborns.
The study is supervised by a team of researchers, including Dr. Aaron Fenster (Robarts Research Institute), Dr. Keith St. Lawrence (Lawson Health Research Institute), Dr. Sandrine de Ribaupierre (Clinical Neurological Sciences, Western University), and clinician Dr. David Lee (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre).
Kishimoto was recently honoured for her work at the February 2013 SPIE Medical Imaging conference in Orlando, Florida. She received the top prize among 23 posters in the Ultrasonic Imaging, Tomography, and Therapy session. The cum laude award recognizes innovation and research excellence.
For this project, a small portable 3D ultrasound (US) system was designed using software patented by Dr. Fenster. The device was then used by Kishimoto to assess a condition known as intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) in pre-term babies. IVH affects 12-20% of babies born at less than 35 weeks gestation (full term = 40 weeks gestation). In these newborns, the vessels on the inner walls of ventricles, the spaces in the brain containing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), are extremely fragile. If a vessel ruptures, bleeding into the ventricles can occur. In severe cases, the normal circulation of CSF is blocked leading to fluid accumulation. This causes an increase in the size of the ventricles and increased pressure inside the skull. Further brain injury may occur as a result, so the babies must be carefully monitored.
As compared to conventional 2D US, the 3D US device can provide volume measurements of the entire ventricles right at the bedside. This allows physicians to more accurately assess subtle changes in ventricle size and better determine whether there is a need for intervention to remove some of the excess CSF. This translates into huge benefits for these vulnerable patients.
Kishimoto has acquired 3D US scans for 16 very low birth weight newborns so far. When these tiny patients improve enough to leave the hospital, an image from their scan is tucked inside a card of thanks to the parents for participating in the study.