September 2011

Ultrasound News
Radiology Today
Vol. 12 No. 9 P. 11

Ultrasound Can Detect Brain Injuries in Premature Infants

Premature infants are at risk for injuries to the white and gray matter of the brain that affect cortical development and neural connectivity. Some forms of these injuries can be detected in the neonatal period using neonatal head ultrasound, according to research from Columbia University Medical Center published in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Studying a group of premature infants until they reached the age of 16, researchers reported that infants with neonatal ultrasound abnormalities had an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, specifically attention–deficit/hyperactivity disorder, tic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and major depression—all of which are thought to arise from dysfunctions of the subcortical-cortical circuits.

An increased appreciation of the relation between perinatal brain injuries and later psychiatric disorders could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention by the pediatricians, psychiatrists, and neurologists who care for these children and adolescents. Imaging could help doctors make an earlier diagnosis. Future research may also explore the relation of perinatal brain injury to psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, that more commonly come to clinical attention in adulthood.

A research group at Columbia University Medical Center/New York State Psychiatric Institute led by Agnes Whitaker, MD, evaluated more than 400 nondisabled adolescents who had been born prematurely and had abnormal brain ultrasounds taken at birth. When the researchers administered questionnaires and cognitive tests to the subjects and interviewed their parents, they found a relation between perinatal brain injuries and certain psychiatric disorders at adolescence that could not be explained by other medical or social factors.

Although scientists have speculated for decades that early brain injury can have long-term psychiatric effects, these results provide the first strong empirical evidence of such a relation.

“The study is a beautiful example of interdisciplinary work. The team included researchers from neonatology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and epidemiology. It couldn’t have been done otherwise,” says Whitaker, a clinical professor of psychiatry in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University and research psychiatrist in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York State Psychiatric Institute.

— Source: Columbia University Medical Center

MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound May Help Treat Solid Tumors
Preclinical Study to Examine Feasibility

Oxygen-deprived tumor cells usually resist radiation and chemotherapy, making them a key challenge in treating cancer. MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) could reduce this problem, according to Xin Chen, PhD, who is investigating MRgFUS in patients with malignant solid tumors in areas such as the liver, prostate, and breast.

Chen, an assistant professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, received a research award from the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation. He is investigating the feasibility of a new method that will detect the hypoxic areas in tumors and use MRgFUS to selectively ablate them prior to regular radiation therapy. To test the method, Chen and his colleagues will conduct preclinical studies using a mouse tumor model and PET/MRI guidance.

"Due to the advanced development in the MR-guided FUS system, PET imaging, and the image-processing algorithm, there are no technical difficulties to translate this method to clinical practices," Chen says.

If the approach proves effective, Chen believes it could convince more physicians to use noninvasive focused ultrasound as an adjuvant therapy. "The translation of FUS to tumor treatment has been hampered by its long treatment time," he notes.

Because the new method involves significantly shortened treatments, Chen believes it could facilitate the use of FUS therapies in a wider range of tumors.

— Source: PR Newswire