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GE, Wellcome Trust team up for neonate MRI

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | April 11, 2011
It's often too dangerous to carry newborns at high risk for brain injury out of the neonatal intensive care unit to get magnetic resonance imaging scans. That's why GE Healthcare and a charity are looking to bring MRIs into the NICU.

GE said Monday it received a grant from the Wellcome Trust in the UK to investigate how to put an MRI unit in the NICU in order to better diagnose children at risk for potentially deadly or crippling brain injuries.

"With the assistance of the Wellcome Trust, we're aiming to solve the problem of moving infants out of the NICU for an MRI of the brain. Currently there's no way to image an infant within the NICU environment," GE spokeswoman Rebecca Hayne told DOTmed News by e-mail.
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GE declined to disclose the size of the award. The company said it hoped the award would be a "multi-year" one until it could come up with a solution.

Babies born at high risk for brain injury typically receive ultrasound scans, even though MRI is often believed to be a more sensitive tool in diagnosing injury, GE said. The reason is that ultrasounds are usually available in the neonatal intensive care unit, whereas MRI scanners are found in another wing of the hospital or another center entirely, and it's often deemed too risky to bundle up a fragile newborn to be carried to the MRI room.

In the UK, five in every 1,000 newborns suffer brain injury, and nearly one in five die from it, GE said. Survivors are at risk of developing long-term neurological problems. Faster and more accurate diagnosis could help improve clinical outcomes, the company said.

The Wellcome Trust, founded in 1936 by the will of Sir Henry Wellcome, is Britain's largest charity, according to a note on its website. The charity said it spends more than 600 million pounds a year to fund research to improve human and animal health.

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