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Improving treatment of serious head injuries

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Action funding is helping researchers to improve treatment for children with severe head injuries by using advanced brain monitoring techniques.

Head injuries are common in children and account for around 35,000 hospital admissions a year. Thankfully, most are not serious, but some have devastating consequences, leaving children with long-term brain damage – and it can take months or even years for the full effects to become apparent. Sadly some children die.

Around 2,000 UK children a year suffer a serious traumatic brain injury. When treating adults with traumatic brain injury, doctors regularly monitor blood and brain pressures to guide them. Dr Shruti Agrawal and her team, based at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, believe the same techniques can help children but experience using them in younger patients is currently limited.

“We don’t yet know enough about pressure patterns in children’s brains,” she says.

To address this, the team will monitor pressure readings in 135 children in paediatric intensive care and compare the data with their clinical outcomes up to a year later. The aim is to determine the most effective pressure and monitoring measures to limit further brain damage in children – which are expected to be different to those applied to adults.

Dr Agrawal hopes this will lead to new recommendations for how doctors manage serious head injuries in children, reducing the risk of long-term complications.

This work is being funded together with the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust.