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Breakthrough Brain Monitoring System Sets New Standard for ICU Sedation

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Jun 2023
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Image: The breakthrough sedation assessment system can reduce ICU costs and improve patient safety (Photo courtesy of BrainStem Biometrics)
Image: The breakthrough sedation assessment system can reduce ICU costs and improve patient safety (Photo courtesy of BrainStem Biometrics)

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) hosts the most critically ill patients within a hospital environment. These patients are often faced with significant physical and psychological distress due to the severity of their conditions. To manage pain, anxiety, and facilitate treatment, healthcare providers frequently use sedation, which plays a critical role in enhancing patient outcomes in the ICU. However, currently, there are no validated tools to sufficiently measure sedation levels. Various patient agitation scales have been developed and occasionally used for evaluating sedation levels in ICU patients. But these scales, providing subjective data at a patient's bedside, fail to distinctly distinguish between different sedation levels. Now, a novel system offers objective monitoring of brain stem activity and its response to sedation therapy, assisting clinicians in determining the ideal sedation level for each patient.

BrainStem Biometrics’ (Palo Alto, CA, USA) has developed a simple, non-invasive, low-cost disposable sensor system that employs a sensor placed gently on the patient's closed eyelid. The sensor, equipped with a piezoelectric element, receives a signal representing eye tremor. This signal is then processed and converted into a frequency measurement. The signal processor incorporates filtering mechanisms to ensure clear transmission of the ocular microtremor (OMT) reading—a high-frequency, low-amplitude physiological eye tremor common to all individuals.

OMT is comparable to other neurogenic physical tremors. It originates in the brainstem and correlates directly with the level of neuronal activity in the brainstem and reticular activating system—responsible for awakening, awareness, arousal, and autonomic functions. Studies by clinicians demonstrate that OMT signal patterns and intensity change with varying brain states. OMT frequencies and amplitudes decline during death, coma, anesthesia, and sleep. Some patients with neurological conditions show unusual OMT signal patterns. Consequently, OMT offers substantial potential as a specific diagnostic and monitoring parameter applicable across various clinical settings—essentially serving as a new "brainstem vital sign."

The nature of illnesses within the ICU is quite diverse, and patients' requirements can differ significantly. For instance, a patient with head trauma needs different sedation management compared to a patient recuperating from surgery. Without objective measurement, achieving targeted sedation goals for patients becomes challenging. The consensus among critical care caregivers and administrators suggests a pressing need for a reliable tool to assess sedation levels in the ICU. The system developed by BrainStem Biometrics could address this need by enabling goal-directed sedative delivery, with the potential to optimally adjust sedation dosage for each patient.

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