Education

UniSA study reveals baby brain scans could prevent strokes later in life

Discover how non-invasive brain scans in infants could significantly lower the risk of strokes in adulthood, according to groundbreaking research from the University of South Australia.

Researchers at UniSA have discovered that non-invasive brain scans on babies could reduce the risk of stroke later in life. Published in BMJ Open, the research analysed over two and a half centuries of data concerning trends in brain aneurysms, which is a key cause of stroke.

Despite advances in medical science, brain aneurysms are still common in todays society, demonstrating the importance of detecting brain vessel anomalies early on. This study offers a proactive approach to reduce severe long-term effects driven by the global impact of strokes, which are the second leading cause of death worldwide and claim 15 million lives each year.

“A brain aneurysm is a bulge in an artery caused by a weakness in the artery wall which, if it bursts, can lead to a stroke,” Dr Arjun Burlakoti, a neuroanatomy expert and Senior Lecturer at UniSA, said.

“Our findings indicate that these vessel variations are generally present from birth. Early identification means we can monitor at-risk individuals more effectively throughout their lives.”

The research team advocates for the use of transcranial Doppler ultrasound scans on children, which uses sound waves to monitor blood flow and detect irregularities in the brain’s arteries, and can be performed without causing discomfort or harm to young patients.

In Australia alone, strokes occur every 19 minutes and is a major cause of death. The economic burden of treating stroke patients is expensive, with individual cases costing approximately $300,000.

“This is a safe and non-invasive screening method. If detected early, families can have regular follow-ups to promptly address any anomalies. With the high stakes involved, both in terms of health consequences and financial costs, early screening could be a game-changer,” Dr Burlakoti said.

The researchers apart of this study urge healthcare providers and parents to consider routine screening for babies and young children as a preventive measure. The approach not only ensures a healthier future for those at risk, but also contributes to the wider effort of reducing the worldwide stroke burden.

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