A Drexel team and InfraScanner, a local medical firm, have committed to a contract with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to work on a device that will evaluate brain injuries. The contract, to redesign InfraScanner, will be for a three-year project and for $3.7 million.
It is also used in emergency rooms, intensive care units, military hospitals and sporting events. Some hospitals without neurosurgeons use it to evaluate if a patient needs to be transferred and it is licensed for use in ambulances and in pediatrics outside the United States.
The team is comprised of individuals from Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems. Hasan Ayaz is in charge of software redesign. Meltem Izzetoglu is handling signal processing and “phantoms”, or the testing of models that physiologically resemble the human head. Kurtulus Izzetoglu is involved in the product’s overall design. Banu Onaral handles the project oversight.
InfraScan, Inc., is a medical technology firm based in Philadelphia that specializes in diagnosing brain injuries. The device has been in use since 2010, and has been commercially available since 2013. The Drexel team helped create the algorithms for the original device.
Brain injuries comprise nearly half of all combat deaths, and 30 percent of those wounded in the recent Iraq war had head injuries. Three main factors contribute to these deaths: intracranial (bleeding within the skull), brain tissue swelling and loss of oxygen saturation in brain tissues.
“Oftentimes, in accidents, there is not an open wound,” Onaral said, director of Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science, and Health Systems. “You can look at their actions, but you don’t know if they’re bleeding inside.”
“If you don’t have oxygen [in your brain], you will not be able to be cognitively active,” Onaral said. She explained that without oxygen, one cannot pay attention or form memories. “The bleeding can happen anywhere in the head, so it can be the motor functions [that are impaired].”
According to Onaral, there exists a “golden hour” (though it may be longer for young individuals) for treatment; if the injured person does not get to a hospital with a CT scan, blood and water pooling (enemas) will kill cells. This could cause paralysis and death. She discussed the possibility of using Infrascanner at accident sites to triage (or evaluate the degree of urgency for treatment).
The device uses near-infrared light to detect brain bleeds. Using a physics equation, Infrascanner can tell the volume of the blood in the brain. Although some of the light is absorbed in the brain tissue, the rest returns to the device with information.
The team already has some ideas for how to proceed. The redesign will be able to detect local changes in tissue oxygenation, as well as brain edemas and concussions. The redesign will also be more “rugged” in design than its predecessor, with an accessible user interface for lay users. Onaral said that before a device is approved by the FDA, it must undergo rigorous testing, so there is already a lot of feedback available to them.
“There are many unmet needs and requirements. This feedback really guides this new design. It’s what the people want that we work on,” Onaral continued.