Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in Duisburg, Germany, have developed a sensor that can measure and individually adjust brain pressure if the pressure is too high in the brain of a patient with hydrocephalus, commonly known as “water on the brain.” Physicians can implant the sensor system, which is approved in Europe for use as a long-term implant, in the head to regulate the pressure.

Physicians can measure cerebral pressure with the aid of implanted monitoring sensor. They merely place a hand-held reading device on the head of the patient. (Credit: Patrick J. Lynch/Fraunhofer IMS)

In hydrocephalus, the brain produces either too much cerebral fluid, or cannot drain off sufficient fluid, which increases pressure in the brain, resulting in damage. A shunt system implanted into the patient’s brain, draws off superfluous fluid. The heart of this shunt system is a valve: If the pressure increases above a threshold value, then the valve opens; if it declines again, then the valve closes.

The new sensor implanted into the patient’s brain with the shunt system, allows physicians to read brain pressure using a hand-held meter within seconds. If the patient experiences discomfort, the physician can place a hand-held meter on the outside of the patient’s head. The device sends magnetic radio waves and supplies the sensor in the shunt with power, which then measures temperature and pressure in the cerebral fluid, and transmits these data back to the handheld device.

The researchers say that the sensor is ready for serial production. They expect that In a few years, the sensor may not only record cerebral pressure but also develop a diagnosis and adjust the pressure independently, immediately on its own.