Premature babies, born before 30 weeks of pregnancy, often need help breathing in order to survive. X-ray is currently used to diagnose the condition of the lungs, but the technology involves risks and X-ray images can only be taken occasionally.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now developed a laser-based, safe method of analysis that will hopefully enable continuous monitoring of the baby’s condition. This will facilitate faster implementation of appropriate measures.
Today it is difficult to constantly maintain the proper settings on a respirator as the child’s condition changes over time. The lungs have to be inflated to provide sufficient oxygenation – but without damaging the lung tissue, which can happen with too much pressure.
This equipment will provide doctors with more information compared to X-rays, however, as it, besides providing information on the spatial distribution of air, also can detect how much oxygen is present in the different part of the lungs. The laser beam used is weak and harmless to the child.
“We use laser light at different wavelengths, and each of those wavelengths can probe different gases through the spectral fingerprints that each gas has”, explains Patrik Lundin, researcher in Atomic Physics at Lund University.
The technology springs from many years of research in applied laser spectroscopy at Lund University, and is today commercialized within Gasporox AB, a spin-off company from the Atomic Physics Division.
If all goes according to plan, the technology is expected to be available at clinics in 6–7 years.
“In the future, we hope that this technology will be used within the intensive care of newborns, to control respiratory settings, for example”, concludes Vineta Fellman, Professor at the Neonatal Clinic at Skåne University Hospital in Lund, Sweden.
The method has already been successfully tested on 29 children at Skåne University Hospital in Lund, Sweden. Professor of Atomic Physics Stefan Andersson Engels and Professor at the Neonatal Clinic Vineta Fellman will now receive SEK 2 million in EU funding to further develop the technology into functioning medical equipment that can be used in hospitals.
The study of the 30 children has been accepted for publication in ”Pediatric Research” but is not yet available. Link to previous scientific publication:
Patrik Lundin, researcher in Atomic Physics at Lund University
Emilie Krite Svanberg, MD, PhD, Lund University