Handheld device images eyes to save brains
When someone has a head injury, it's vitally important to know if they're experiencing elevated intracranial pressure – it can cause damage to the brain and spinal cord if left unchecked. A newly-developed device could make the diagnosis process faster and easier than ever before.
Currently, in order to see if someone has high intracranial pressure, they have to be taken to an operating room where a hole is drilled in their skull and a probe is inserted. Not only is this traumatic, invasive and expensive, but it also doesn't deliver results until well after the accident has occurred.
Invented by South African pediatric neurosurgeon Llewellyn Padayachy, the new handheld device could be used onsite or en route by ambulance crews, and doesn't require any hole-drilling.
Instead, it's held up to the patient's eye, where it uses ultrasound to image structures within the organ. If telltale changes in those structures are detected, it means that the intracranial pressure is elevated. Although users previously had to interpret the data manually in order to reach that conclusion, an artificial intelligence system now does it for them.
The technology was initially tested on 16 patients in South Africa, followed by a group of 28, successfully identifying individuals with elevated pressure. Norway's SINTEF research group, which has partnered with Padayachy on development of the device, is planning a larger 200-patient trial at the Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo.
"If clinical assessments can be made at accident scenes, this will make a big difference later in the patient pathway," says SINTEF researcher Reidar Brekken. "It will help to save lives and prevent potential brain damage. It will also be less expensive to implement because there will be no need to transport patients for costly surgical interventions in operating theaters in order to perform an examination."