Must Be Love on the (Baby) Brain



It is the most complex organ in our bodies, the headquarters of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and conductor of behaviour. Thanks to advancements in technology, the brain is no longer the complete mystery it once was.

Brain development begins early – just a few weeks after conception. Development then skyrockets during pregnancy and an infant’s early life.

“We know that preservation of brain health is an absolutely integral part of neonatal care,” explains Dr. Jill Boulton, Neonatologist at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH). “So, the ability to detect seizures in our tiniest patients is critical to future development and overall brain health.”

At birth, a baby has around 100 billion neurons, all they will ever need. Protecting these neurons is crucial. A seizure can have a significantly detrimental effect. But how is a seizure detected in a baby?

“Most neonatal seizures are not obvious,” says Bonnie Wilkie, NICU Educator at KGH. “Sometimes it’s a little cyclical limb movement, or lip smacking, or twitches – all of which babies do for other reasons as well.”

This is why a new piece of equipment funded by the Kelowna Sunrise Rotary Club through their 2021 Season of Giving Calendar campaign has been so critical.

The club sold 6,000 calendars and raised over $129,000, with half of the proceeds dedicated to supporting pediatric care at KGH. The Rotary members chose to use the funds to purchase a BRAINZ monitor for use in the NICU at KGH.

L to R: Bonnie Wilkie, NICU Educator, Joseph Daignault, RN and Laura Beresford, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, NICU Pediatrics with the BRAINZ monitor at KGH.

The BRAINZ monitor, a specialized EEG (electroencephalogram), allows clinicians to see the subtle indicators of a seizure or other abnormal brain activity in a baby. Small sensors are attached to the scalp to pick up the electrical signals produced by the brain. These signals are recorded by the technology for review by neonatologists like Dr. Boulton.

“The BRAINZ monitor has made a potentially life-altering difference in the care that we are able to provide,” states Dr. Boulton. “We had a baby who had a very clear seizure, and we applied the BRAINZ monitor and provided treatment. But that wasn’t the end of it. The BRAINZ monitor also allowed us to identify additional, more subtle seizures that were not visibly apparent and subsequently escalate care.”

The treatment for the initial seizure required medications to sedate the baby. “Without the BRAINZ monitor, we would not have seen the subtle changes in the baby’s brain activity and might not have intervened as quickly as we did,” concludes Dr. Boulton.

The BRAINZ monitor has been used almost ten times in less than a year, allowing KGH clinicians to identify seizures and determine whether a baby needs further follow-up. In addition, the BRAINZ monitor helps clinicians see when no seizures are present, thus allowing the baby to remain close to home, at KGH, for treatment.

Thank you for supporting the Kelowna Sunrise Rotary Club’s Season of Giving Calendar! For our tiniest patients, giving really does change everything.

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