Following brain surgery, doctors have to closely monitor patients for any signs of intercranial pressure (ICP) or brain swelling during recovery. Conventional means of monitoring ICP or brain swelling involve a traditional implant. However, this comes with its own risks as permanent neural sensors increase the chances of infection and can worsen existing swelling.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new class of bioabsorbable neural implants that can measure both temperature and pressure within the brain. The microimplants use a biodegradable polymer, polylactic-co-glycolic acid, as the base for the device. This membrane is then bonded to an etched nanoporous foil that responds to pressure changes in the brain. The structure maintains functioning for several weeks while the patient’s progress is monitored. After the first few weeks are over, the implant harmlessly dissolves and is completely excreted by the body.
In a study published by the research time in Nature, two different versions of the implant were used– one which used soluble wires to transmit the data, and the second used a wireless transmitter the size of a postage stamp that was implanted under the skin. Both were able to effectively measure ICP. The team hopes that in the future the technology can be translated for uses such as: monitoring vitals, pH levels, motion, and more.