The KidsBrain – Improving care of patients with traumatic head injuries

How an automatic monitoring system for intensive care patients helps to improve patient outcomes.

Six months ago, we got a call every parent dreads. Our 8 year old son had had a fall and hit his head. We went straight to accident and emergency where we learned that he had a bleed on the brain and a fractured skull. An ambulance transferred us to pediatric intensive care, at the John Radcliffe hospital. Our son was under their excellent neurology team.

Our little boy was anesthetized for 3 days. Specialists monitored him as well as the pressure in his brain. To measure the pressure the neurological team used an intracranial pressure monitor : a small pressure sensitive probe that is inserted through the skull, into the brain.

If the pressure gets too high, doctors can then assess and make decisions about surgical requirements, and when to give certain medication. As parents, we sat and stared at the monitor with fear and panic, every time it made the slightest beep.

I am happy to report that 6 months on, we have been exceptionally lucky. Whilst our son isn’t 100% back to how he was before the accident, the signs are that this hasn’t caused a lasting impact. The care we received from the neurologists and all the staff at John Radcliffe was exceptional.

Collecting data

In hospital,  we were asked if they could collect our son’s data that was being monitored, for research purposes. Assured that the data would remain anonymous, we readily agreed. The more research is done into how to treat traumatic brain injuries the better.

Recently,with this horrible event behind us, II spoke to our neurologist, at the John Radcliffe and found out what the data was being used for.


James told me about BrainIT,  which is a group working towards developing and testing more “Information Technology” based tools. BrainIT provides collection and analysis of better standardised, and higher resolution data from head injured patients.

The BrainIT group has won three major EC project grants which has fostered the creation of the BrainIT network.

They now automatically collect monitoring activity from patients in intensive care. (Who agree to participate) BrainIT is one of the first international academic collaborative networks to develop, implement and use such a powerful research and clinical network.

The group has created a standardised IT based core dataset, collected from 22 neurointensive care centres, from 11 countries across Europe. They have amassed and shared a uniquely detailed database of over 250 patient’s data from which analyses have lead to a number of peer reviewed academic publications.

The most recent EC funded project (AVERT-IT) has developed a novel “Neural Network” technology, for prediction of arterial hypotension (low blood pressure), a common adverse event that occurs to patients being managed in intensive care.

The incidence of head injury is estimated at 1500 per 100,000 population per annum. In Europe this translates into over a million head injuries per year. Head injury is a leading cause of death in young males, and many survivors have serious and long-term morbidity. The impact is significant social and economic effects upon Europe.

They believe that the BrainIT group’s approach to developing data collection and analysis standards, sharing data for hypothesis testing, and developing new treatment and analysis strategies will eventually lead to improvements in the acute care of patients with brain injury.

Technology for Good is a Community Think Tank for creating and sharing ideas that will help people living with neurological conditions live better lives. We would love you to get in touch or find out more here

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