This Portable Scanner Can See If Your Brain Is Bleeding

Image: Supplied

The Infrascanner is already being used overseas for athletes, military personnel and accident victims to assess head injuries even in remote areas, and now it is available in Australia.

Held in the hand, the scanner is a portable way to instantly see haemorrhages and brain injury, meaning people can be treated as urgent, faster.

The Infrascanner has a light diode that emits near-InfraRed waves to detect where there is bleeding. Non-ionising, near InfraRed light emitted from the device travels 2.5 cms into brain tissue. In head trauma, a bleed usually occurs close to the skull.

Blood outside blood vessels (extravascular blood) usually absorbs ten times more light than intravascular blood. A green light on the scanner gives the patient the all clear, and a red light shows a 90 per cent chance of haemorrhage. It also estimates where it is, and how severe it is.

There's what is called a "golden hour" - the period after head trauma where pre-hospital analysis needs to rapidly assess the neurological condition of a patient. This scanner ensures that time doesn't slip away.

Sports injuries are of particular focus - traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death from sports injuries, and the Infrscanner can be used after sports concussion or loss of consciousness. The Russian boxing team used Infrascanner at the 2016 Olympic Games, and it is also used in American football.

It is already used as a screening tool in military situations for mass casualty events - like blast victims - to help decide urgency and evacuation. The US Marines, Army (who both investigated in the technology) and Navy, German Army, Russian Military, Spanish Military, Israeli Navy Seals, Philippines and Turkish air forces and Saudi Arabian National Guard have the device in regular use.

Even within a hospital environment, the scanner helps staff decide which patients need to be a priority for further tests and treatment.

Melbourne paramedic Peter Bailey is the sole distributor for Infrascanner in Australia and New Zealand. Bailey has more than 30 years' experience and expertise in emergency medical services and the delivery of pre-hospital emergency care, paramedical education and paramedical equipment.

"This non-invasive diagnostic tool quickly identifies intracranial bleeding and gives a simple negative or positive result, confirming if the patient requires immediate hospital transfer for a CT scan and further treatment," Mr Bailey said.

Even a negative result may prevent unnecessary medical tests. Radiation in CT scans is equivalent to 400 chest X-rays to the head so avoiding CT scans is desirable if possible, especially in children. Polish hospital emergency departments use Infrascanner in children to help avoid CT scans.

That being said, the device is not a replacement for a CT scan or a comprehensive neurological assessment. It's a backup, and only really reliable for haematomas of greater than 3.5 mL in volume that are less than 2.5 cm from the brain surface.

Mr Bailey said he is hoping to have discussions about its use with major sporting bodies as well as public and private ambulance services, trauma centres and remote health care facilities.

"Anyone can be taught to use it and the device can be used anywhere. The scan takes two to three minutes to complete and results correlate with CT scans."

Infrascanner is the first time near InfraRed technology has been used in a portable hand-held FDA-cleared device, enabling health care professionals to see what's happening inside the skull before symptoms appear.

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