New head-scanning technology can accurately determine the extent of a brain injury and potentially avoid the use of expensive imaging tests.
A clinical trial for the new device, known as the AHEAD 300, that was conducted among adult patients in 11 hospitals around the United States found that the innovative scanning technology can detect brain bleeding with 97 percent accuracy following head trauma.
Currently, most people who experience a head injury receive a CT scan, and 90 percent of the time the results come back negative — although the test comes with a price tag of about $1,200.
“Before our study, there were no objective, quantitative measures of mild head injury other than imaging,” said lead investigator Dr. Daniel Hanley, Jr., a professor of Neurological Medicine and Director of the Brain Injury Outcomes Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This work opens up the possibility of diagnosing head injury in a very early and precise way.”
A patient wears the device over their head, and the technology then assesses electrical activity and taps into an algorithm to determine if a patient is experiencing bleeding in the brain. Researchers believe it adds a valuable tool to the repertoire of emergency physicians and other medical personnel.
“This technology is not meant to replace the CT scan in patients with mild head injury, but it provides the clinician with additional information to facilitate routine clinical decision-making,” said Hanley.
Researchers tested the device, which was developed by Bethesda, Md.-based BrainScope Company Inc., on 720 adults who presented at the emergency department with a head injury. Doctors performed a routine clinical assessment, oversaw a concussion test and then put the AHEAD 300 device to use.
During use, patients were instructed to recline for five to 10 minutes and let the device monitor and record brain-wave patterns. The device then synthesized up to 30 specific elements of electrical activity in the brain and produced a snapshot of overall brain functioning and whether the patient experienced internal bleeding.
Comparing the results of the algorithm with a CT scan, the researchers found that the device successfully determined if someone had suffered a traumatic brain injury 152 out of 156 times, giving it a 97 percent accuracy rating.
While the device may never replace scanning as the ultimate method of detecting the extent of brain injuries, the researchers envision many useful applications for the new technology.
“If someone with a mild head injury was evaluated on the sports or battlefield, then this test could assist in the decision of whether or not he or she needs rapid transport to the hospital,” said Hanley.
“Alternatively, if there is an accident with many people injured, medical personnel could use the device to triage which patients would need to have CT scans and who should go first. Those showing a ‘positive’ for brain injury would go first,” added Hanley.
The AHEAD 300 device was approved for commercial use in 2016 by the Food and Drug Administration and is currently available on a limited basis.
The study appeared in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.