Hand-held brain scanner tested for pre-hospital use

The London Air Ambulance is testing the Infrascanner to detect life-threatening head injuries

LONDON — A prehospital brain scanner to detect life-threatening head injuries is being tested by the London Air Ambulance.

The hand-held Infrascanner detects blood clots on the brain in less than two minutes, allowing for earlier and more accurate diagnosis of injuries, the London Air Ambulance announced.  

"It is really important to be able to find out what is going on inside a patient’s head and get a clearer picture of any injuries sustained," said Mark Wilson, London’s Air Ambulance doctor and a consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College London. "By doing this during the transfer to hospital, we hope to be able to expedite treatments, such as surgery, by knowing in advance what type of brain injury the patient has."

Paramedics are testing a handheld device to detect brain bleeding
Paramedics are testing a handheld device to detect brain bleeding (Image courtesy London Air Ambulance)

By using the Infrascanner the air ambulance hopes to better inform emergency departments of potentially life-threatening brain bleeding. Early notification enables operating rooms to prepare for the next stage of patient treatment.

The Infranscanner has a 90 percent in-hospital accuracy rate for finding clinically relevant blood clots on the brain. With this out-of-hospital trial, officials aim to match these figures. 

The National Institute for Health Research Brain Injury Healthcare Technology Co-operative has provided the seed funding for this pilot study. The Infrascanner trial started in spring 2015 and will complete in spring 2016. To date, the Infrascanner has been used on over 60 patients.

"London’s Air Ambulance and other pre-hospital emergency providers are to be congratulated upon their enthusiasm for research to identify affordable ways to further improve the outcomes for our critically injured patients," said Professor John D. Pickard, Honorary Director of the NIHR Brain Injury Healthcare Technology Co-operative.

Last year the London Air Ambulance treated 1,806 patients, 60 percent of which were involved in road traffic collisions and falls from heights — mechanisms that are commonly associated with causing head injury.

The air ambulance is a charity organization that treats an average of five critically-injured people in London each day. The paramedics, provided by London Ambulance Service, perform medical interventions at the roadside which are normally only found in a hospital emergency department. Barts Health NHS Trust provides the doctors and some financial support. 

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