Transparent Skull Replacement Helps Monitor Brain Injury

California — In a groundbreaking medical procedure, California skateboarder Jared Hager, 39, has become the first patient to receive a transparent skull replacement. This innovative approach allows doctors to closely monitor his brain function and test advanced brain imaging techniques.

Hager suffered a traumatic brain injury in April 2019 after a skateboarding accident at a Palm Springs reservoir. Emergency surgery required the removal of half his skull to alleviate brain pressure. Initially, doctors planned to restore the skull bone, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed elective surgeries, leaving Hager’s brain protected only by skin and connective tissue for two years.

The delay made Hager an ideal candidate for the experimental skull implant, resembling plexiglass. This “window” enables doctors to conduct high-resolution brain imaging using new ultrasound and CT techniques. These scans track brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow or electrical impulses, offering insights into brain function and disorders.

Dr. Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, highlighted the significance of this procedure. “This is the first time functional ultrasound imaging has been applied through a skull replacement in an awake patient,” Liu said. The team monitored Hager’s brain activity while he solved puzzles and played guitar.

The clear implant enhances diagnostic capabilities and provides a safer, proactive approach to treatment. “Monitoring through a transparent window allows for early detection of complications like blood clots,” added Dr. Jonathan Russin, director of cerebrovascular surgery at Keck Hospital of USC.

The findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on May 29, 2024. Researchers commended Hager’s willingness to participate, paving the way for potential advancements in treating traumatic brain injuries.

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