Dr David Carmichael will test whether state-of-the-art 7T MRI scanning can be adapted for use in children to improve the success of epilepsy brain surgery, as well as offering a better solution for the diagnosis and monitoring of other brain conditions.
Why this research is vital
Because children’s brains are smaller, higher resolution imaging is needed to study the tiny structures inside them. For some conditions, including certain types of epilepsy, standard MRI scans can’t provide the detail clinicians need to effectively diagnose and monitor the condition.
This can dramatically reduce a child’s chances of early treatment and recovery, as well as potentially lead to further uncomfortable or invasive tests. There is an urgent need to adopt higher resolution imaging technologies to help children with serious brain conditions. But these scans take more time and children can find it difficult to stay still, as well as finding the experience uncomfortable or scary.
7T MRI imaging
Dr David Carmichael and his team want to see whether new, high-resolution 7T MRI scanning could be used to help children with serious brain conditions get the treatment they need. They will focus on a type of epilepsy that can be treated through surgery to remove an abnormal brain region, or lesion.
This surgery is more likely to be effective if the lesion is spotted first on a child’s MRI scan, but in many cases, standard scans do not detect any lesions. Dr Carmichael believes that part of the problem is that it is impossible to ‘see’ because of a lack of scanning resolution. His team will test whether state-of-the-art 7T MRI imaging can successfully detect these subtle brain structures.
Professor Carmichael and his team will use a state-of-the-art 7T MRI scanner in St Thomas’ hospital, London to scan children aged 2-18. They will see whether lesions can be detected using the high-resolution scanner, while attempting to overcome several barriers to the use of 7T MRI in children.
First, they hope to create child-friendly approach that helps put children at ease and encourages them to stay still for the duration of the scan. This could include personalised head cushions with TV and headphones, as well as anaesthetic procedures for some patients. Second, the team aim to identify the most effective and consistent scanning techniques, ensuring scans can be compared over time and that they produce the best quality images.
Impact of this project
Harnessing the power of high-resolution MRI could transform diagnosis and treatment for children with epilepsy, increasing the likelihood of successful surgery and avoiding uncertainty for the family and the need for further invasive tests. This could help children with the condition get effective treatment more quickly, giving them a better chance of living a life free of seizures. If successful, the scans could also be applied to many other brain conditions that affect children.
This project is jointly funded by Sparks and charity partner Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity through their national research funding call.