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FDA Approves Portable Device to Spot Brain Bleeding

Illustration of brain (NIDA)

(National Institute of Drug Abuse)

The Food and Drug Administration approved last week a hand-held device designed to detect bleeding in the skull, a life-threatening condition. The device, called the Infrascanner, is based on research conducted at University of Pennsylvania and Baylor College of Medicine, and funded in part by the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

The Infrascanner detects intracranial hematomas that occur when blood from a ruptured blood vessel collects in the brain or between the skull and the brain, a condition that can compress the brain. This condition can produce symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, dizziness, lethargy, weakness in the arm or leg on one side of the body, seizures, or unconsciousness, and be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

The device uses a scanner that directs near-infrared wavelengths of light that penetrate tissue and bone into the skull. Any blood in or around the skull absorbs the light differently than other areas of the brain.

The scanner then detects differences in light absorption and transmits the information wirelessly to a hand-held computer. A trained technician can identify the differences in light absorption or optical density to determine the need for further diagnostic procedures, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan.

The Infrascanner is made by InfraScan Inc., a medical device developer in Philadelphia. The product is based on research by the late Britton Chance at University of Pennsylvania and Claudia Robertson at Baylor College of Medicine. InfraScan received its latest U.S. patent for the device in November.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) helped fund development of the Infrascanner because of its ability to detect potential brain hematomas without a CT scanner, a technology not found on board many ships or in forward field hospitals. ONR says the U.S. Marines are testing and ruggedizing the device to meet military standards for resistance to water, sand, corrosion by salt spray.

Read more: Mayo Clinic, GE to Research Brain-Scan MRI Technology

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