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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

​Pitt Researchers Receive Grant for Studies on Subarachnoid Hemorrhages

PITTSBURGH, September 13, 1999 — A team of University of Pittsburgh investigators recently received a grant totaling $1.6 million over four years from the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health for their research on patients who have a subarachnoid hemorrhage due to rupture of a cerebral aneurysm. The team includes principal investigator Mary Kerr, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor of nursing and director of the Center for Nursing Research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing; Edwin Nemoto, Ph.D., professor of neurological surgery; and Howard Yonas, M.D., professor and vice chairman of the department of neurological surgery, chief of cerebral vascular surgery and co-director of the UPMC Stroke Institute .

About five to ten days following surgery to repair a ruptured aneurysm with blood around the base of the brain, the vessels may go into spasm, putting patients at risk for stroke. "Currently, there is no definitive way to predict when spasm may occur," Dr. Kerr said. "The purpose of this study is to determine whether we can predict these spasms by using a combination of methods that can noninvasively track the amount of oxygen available to the brain and the speed of blood as it moves within the brain."

First, patches are placed on the upper forehead over the cortex of the brain to continuously monitor the level of oxygen in the brain using near infrared technology. Then, sound waves are used to noninvasively examine the speed of blood as it flows through the vessels in the brain. A third method will track patients’ brainwave electrical activity and allow the investigators to examine the blood flow.

"The ultimate goal in using these different measures in combination is to identify when there is inadequate blood supply getting to the brain before the patient develops symptoms," Dr. Yonas said. "While there may be problems using any of these tools individually, we believe that when used together, these tools will detect a decrease in blood flow sooner than when patients are routinely examined during the post-operative period."

For their research, the team expects to monitor about 100 patients throughout the course of their hospital stay.

Founded in 1939, the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing offers a comprehensive educational program conferring undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Its varied programs are designed to meet the diverse needs of students interested in professional nursing education, ranging from newly graduated high school students beginning a career in nursing to experienced nurses seeking a doctoral degree for careers as nurse scientists, teachers and informatics professionals.

For more information about Pitt’s School of Nursing, please access For more information on the Department of Neurological Surgery visit the website at


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