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New Techniques May Improve Infant Heart Surgery

WEDNESDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Two new monitoring techniques may provide early warnings about possible brain damage in children as they undergo surgery for heart defects, researchers report.

Autoregulation monitoring is a noninvasive technique that can determine when blood flow to the brain may be low. The other method, a blood test, uses a small sample of blood to detect brain-tissue injury during surgery.

Doctors previously had no way to detect brain injuries as they occurred during heart surgery.

Details of the research are to be presented Wednesday during an American Heart Association press briefing.

Brain injury occurs in 30 percent to 70 percent of infants and children who have surgery to repair congenital heart defects, which are heart abnormalities present at birth. For each 1,000 live births in the United States, about eight babies will have some type of heart defect, according to a heart association news release.

This was a pilot study to evaluate the feasibility of new ways to monitor for brain damage while children have surgery to repair heart defects. The researchers plan to conduct another study to assess the effectiveness of these brain monitoring techniques 18 months after surgery.

Researchers' data and conclusions should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about congenital heart defects.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, April 25, 2012

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