Scan predicts baby's brain damage two years earlier
A 15-minute scan could diagnose brain damage in babies up to two years earlier.
In a study of more than 200 babies at seven hospitals across the UK and the US, researchers found the new method could predict damage in 98pc of cases.
Presently doctors use MRI scans after birth to give parents an estimation of the extent of the damage, and the possible long-term disabilities their child may face, but it is only between 60-85pc accurate and relies heavily on the radiologist's judgement.
For a full diagnosis, parents must endure a two-year wait to find out if their child will reach developmental goals like walking and talking.
In the new study, led by Imperial College London, scientists used MR spectroscopy to assess the health of brain cells in an area called the thalamus, which co-ordinates movement, and is severely damaged by oxygen deprivation.
The scan specifically tests for a compound called N-acetylaspartate - high levels of which are found in healthy brain cells.
In the new trial, published in the journal 'Lancet Neurology', the scan was performed at the same time as the routine MRI scan when a baby was between four and 14 days old.
The scan does not carry any additional cost to a health service, and the data can be easily analysed using special software by any radiographer.
The trial babies then had their brain scan soon after this therapy, and detailed developmental assessment at two years of age.
The results suggested the MR spectroscopy at two weeks accurately predicted the level of toddler's development at two years old.