Even if resuscitation after a cardiac arrest is successful, many patients will suffer from the consequences of brain damage. Researcher Jeannette Hofmeijer of the University of Twente, who is a neurologist at the Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem, would like to do more research on this brain damage and the neurological functions of the patient. For this, she will receive the highest personal research grant of the Dutch Heart Foundation: the ‘clinical established investigator’ grant.
Survival rates after a cardiac arrest have gone up during the past decades. In The Netherlands, it was around 9 percent in the 90s, it is now 23 percent on average and even 41 percent for specific types of cardiac arrests. This is thanks to the widespread availability of defibrillator systems (AEDs) and awareness campaigns about what you can do to help. Fast response is still the number one priority, as any cardiac arrest will very soon lead to brain damage because there is no oxygen-rich blood available to feed the brain.
After successful resuscitation, when patients can start their daily life again, all treatment and rehabilitation focuses on the heart. Neurologic consequences don’t get much attention, while brain damage can have major consequences: some of the patients will not be able to work again, or their relatives observe personality changes. “All too often, it is said that this is a logic consequence of the traumatic experience. It just takes some time to overcome this, the message is. But the patient does not speak to a neurologist in this phase of recovery”, Jeannette Hofmeijer says.
In her new research project, she’s aiming at better diagnostics of brain damage after cardiac arrests: she will do this by interviewing patients and by developing new analysis techniques using high-end MRI scans and EEG, for example. The next step is about stimulating the recovery of the brain damage, using medication or stimulation techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation. The project will be a mix of clinical, technological and ethical questions.
Video about the work of Jeannette Hofmeijer, made on the occasion of 2016's Professor De Winter Prize that she won as well.
Jeannette Hofmeijer works at UT’s Clinical Neurophysiology group, led by Prof Michel van Putten (who is a neurologist as well). The group is part of the TechMed Centre of the university. For the past ten years, the group has done a lot of research on brain damage of patients that remained in a coma after a cardiac arrest. For this, Hofmeijer received an innovation grant of the Dutch Heart Foundation earlier on. In 2016 she received the Professor De Winter Prize for female top talent, during that year's Dies celebrations of the University of Twente. She received the prize for a publication in 'Neurology'.
The ‘Clinical Established Investigator’-grant is the highest in the series of the so-called Dekker-grants of the Heart Foundation, named after the former medical director of the foundation. These grants start at student and beginning researcher level, and go all the way up to senior researchers. It involves a sum of money of 650,000 euro, and is awarded every two years.