Pupillometer: An Eye on Brain Function

The practice of checking a patient’s pupils to determine how well their brain is functioning has existed for more than 100 years. It’s an important exam because it can give the health care team clues about brain activity and indicate whether urgent surgery might be necessary.

pupillometre-3However, this method is prone to human error. Small changes in reactivity may not be noticed until the brain is already in danger. To take the guesswork out of this process, Hamilton General Hospital has adopted a new, donor-funded technology called a Pupillometer. The General is one of only five hospitals in Canada using this device.

“The pupil’s changes can precede life threatening changes for the patient,” says Dr. Jichici. “These changes may indicate that we need to check the patient more frequently, order certain tests or perform emergency surgery on the brain.”

Instead of relying on the human eye to gauge reactivity, the Pupillometer is pointed at the pupil. Using infrared light, it records a video of the pupil and analyzes it to decide how reactive it is. Information is stored in the device and can be compared over time to track changes in the patient’s reactivity.

The Pupillometer is already in use in the Neurosciences Unit and is in the process of being introduced to the Intensive Care Units.