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Ultrasound headset tracks blood flow after brain injuries

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For soldiers who've sustained blast injuries, dangerous aftereffects can be better detected with a new headset that continuously monitors blood flow in the brain.

For soldiers with blast-related injuries and patients who’ve survived aneurysms, a new headset ultrasound monitor could help detect potentially dangerous aftereffects.

Cerebral vasospasm occurs when blood vessels suddenly constrict – pressure grows, the velocity inside the artery builds, and less brain flows onwards to the brain. Nearly half the soldiers who sustain blast injuries develop this condition.

Vasospasm can take several days to develop, and in order to detect it, technicians need to use an ultrasound to find the relevant blood vessels and hold the ultrasound beam in place.

PhysioSonics has developed a monitor that automates this process, eliminating the need for a trained technician. Technology Review reports.

"We see putting it on the head and measuring constantly or frequently over two weeks," says company cofounder Michel Kliot of the University of Washington. The point is to have a variable that you can read like a heart rate monitor, he adds.

The monitor consists of a headset that directs ultrasound beams through the head:

  1. Using an algorithm, it automatically detects one of the major arteries that supplies blood to the brain.
  2. Then it locks the relevant beam onto the artery to measure its blood flow.
  3. A machine attached to the headset gives an index of flow and peak velocity.

A high proportion of patients who survive aneurysm ruptures also develop vasospasm. Typically, a technician would have to measure blood flow in the hospital using an ultrasound at least once a day for several days. The new tech will make it possible to continuously monitor high risk patients automatically.

The company, based in Bellevue, Washington, received a military grant of $2.5 million last month to adapt the device for monitoring vasospasm in soldiers; they plan to make a more rugged version for military use. The company hopes to expand the tech to also detect dangerous buildup of pressure in the head – which usually requires drilling a hole in the skull.

They’re filing for Food and Drug Administration approval within the month.

From MIT Technology Review.

Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure