Handheld wand detects dangerous bleeding on the brain

Infrascanner
Credit: Infrascanner

We've written about studies in protective head gear aimed at decreasing the effects of long term damage to the brain due to repeated hits or injuries in sports and on the battlefield. Though helmet technology can be expected to increase, it's not just sports stars and our troops at risk; the NIH reports 1.5 million Americans sustain head injuries. The key to saving individuals from long term damage and death is early detection - hopefully without the time it takes to reach a trauma center. That's where the hand held, non-invasive Infrascanner 2000 comes in, allowing for rapid CT screening in the field.

The wand-like device functions like a CT using Near Infrared technology. A hematoma is detected by measuring the light absorption by both halves of the brain. A normal brain should have symmetrical light absorption; any differences between one side or the other could indicate the hematoma. When extravascular blood builds up the absorbance of light is greater and reveals the trauma.

The first Infrascanner was approved by the FDA in 2011 to act as a triage measure to diagnose the need for immediate intervention prior to hospital care. The system works via an 808 nm diode laser that interacts with light detectors with NIR filters placed on the head. Held approximately 4 cm away from the sensors the light reacts with the tissue underneath the sensors and sends the data back to the device. The entire process takes about two minutes.

In addition to FDA approval, the device has also been put through its paces in field evaluations with the U.S. Navy and Marines in Iraq and Afganistan. These trials were critical in the development of the the latest version, the more durable Infrascanner 2000, with power now provided via two AA batteries, along with a rechargeable battery pack.

The device is currently available overseas and should be available for sale in the U.S. soon. In the meantime data gathered by the military and other trained civilian personnel suggests it could have use beyond just in the field intervention. The hope is that in addition to accident or battlefield trauma it could help in preventive care. This could include monitoring for drugs and alcohol, evidence of strokes, or even at sporting events to instantly provide feedback on concussions.

Who knows? Maybe next year the Tricorder-esque wand may be part of the NFL's sideline safety arsenal.

Infrascanner, via Medical Design Briefs, Mashable