To avoid the harmful radiation resulting from x-rays, near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy has been used to image oxygen concentrations in the lungs of newborns, a technique that could be used to noninvasively monitor premature babies with underdeveloped lungs and increase survival rates. Emilie Krite Svanberg, an anesthesiologist and researcher at Lund University, reported a spectroscopic method using precisely 760.445-nm light. Both continuous-wave and time-resolved techniques were applied; both were able to determine changes in tissue oxygenation, though the time-resolved technique reported more realistic values with smaller interindividual differences. Lund University researcher Emilie Krite Svanberg's studies are carried out on full-term babies, but in the future she hopes that measurements taken with the technology that detects oxygen in the lungs could be used to monitor premature babies. Courtesy of MostPhotos. In addition to being noninvasive, the optical technique also provided data in real time, which is important in the surveillance of critical illness or severe injury. Trials were conducted with healthy newborn babies to prove the concept, and the researchers hope to improve the system to enable clinical adoption. "Today, the method requires one person to hold a measuring instrument against the baby's chest, while another sits by the computer, registering the results,” said Krite Svanberg. “Our goal is to simplify this technology. We hope that the measurements will be possible to perform automatically, by using small transmitters attached to the baby's chest. This would enable measuring the lung function continuously, in a way that is completely safe and that doesn't bother the child.” These measurements could help determine whether or not a premature baby needs treatment in order to improve their breathing. If intensive interventions are necessary, such as inflating collapsed parts of the lungs, light measurements could also be used to minimize the risk of injury from the treatment. The Lund research group has, along with private companies, received an E.U. grant to continue developing the method.