Validating lung vessel size and application to early pre-term gestation patients
Background and Significance
More than one in ten babies are born prematurely, leaving them highly vulnerable to infections and other complications which can result in death. One of the more serious complications of a child who is born prematurely is the lack of lung development and functionality. Often times, these children are unable to breathe on their own, so they need the help of a respirator to have a chance at survival. However, the use of a respirator is highly problematic. There is very little to no data that specifically pinpoints when it is safe to take a child off a respirator; thus, if a child is removed too soon or not at the proper time, it can result in a fatality.
My hypothesis is that children who are born prematurely will have a slower progression in vessel growth than children born at the standard gestational period and will be more likely to develop lung complications as they continue to grow.
I will analyze CT scans from children examined by the UF Shands Pediatric Pulmonary Care Center by utilizing the imaging software within our lab. The vessel segmentation software will allow me to determine the number of branches within the lungs and analyze the radius of the various branches. After recording this data, I will compare the data for the premature children to the results of the children born at the standard gestational period. More specifically, I plan to examine what exactly is the difference between the lung vessels for a child born at 7 months compared to a child born at 9 months if studying the two patients from the same gestational age (say 6 years after birth for the child at the standard gestational period and 6 years and 2 months for the pre-mature child). With this, I hope to analyze enough CT scans to be able to standardize the lung growth rate for premature children and be able to determine the best time to remove a premature child off a respirator.
Immediate Research Objectives
For this research project, I plan to study anywhere between 30-40 chest CT scans under the supervision and guidance from Dr. O'Dell. I plan to present my findings at the University Research Undergraduate Symposium and attending the BMES conference this year in Atlanta, Georgia. I chose this research project as it is something that I believe has not been studied in great enough depth and could possibly give a premature child a better chance at life.