New Devices Promise Faster Detection of Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries affected more than 155,000 men and women in uniform in just the past decade. Brain trauma can be very hard to diagnose, since the victim may not exhibit external signs of injury, and detecting equipment like CT scanners are not always readily available.

ProPublica reports the advance of two potential solutions on the horizon: the InfraScanner, and prototype from the National Institute of Health. Both are small devices that would detect bleeding in the brain, and make diagnosing traumatic brain injury much faster and easier.

The InfraScanner model detects about 75 percent of all hematomas picked up by a CT scan, according to the initial Food and Drug Administration report, by using near-infrared light to detect differences in light absorption in the brain – indicating the presence of bleeding.

A device developed by the NIH, still in the prototype stage, is moved over the injured person’s head, and compares changes in blood volume:  a significant spike would indicate brain bleeding.

It is encouraging to see advancing technology to detect brain injuries in the men and women of our armed forces: hopefully, better diagnostics will lead to a greater understanding of these injuries, and faster treatment for the victims. But there is still a long way to go: often, brain injuries go undetected, and many serious brain injuries don’t show up on CT scans or MRIs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.7 million people in the United States experience a traumatic brain injury every year.

Read the full ProPublica piece New Technologies in the Works to Detect Brain Injury, or watch a video about how the InfraScanner works.