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London paramedics test hand-held brain scanner

The InfraScanner allows emergency medical personnel to test for bleeding on the brain in about two minutes on the way to the hospital.
By Stephen Feller   |   Dec. 30, 2015 at 9:57 AM

LONDON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Air transport paramedics in England are testing a hand-held brain scanner they said could help diagnose brain injuries before patients get to the hospital, allowing doctors to better prepare before patients arrive and potentially preventing the wrong treatment from being applied en route.

London's Air Ambulance has used the InfraScanner on 60 patients during a trial this year, which may precede a larger rollout to emergency personnel after it ends in early 2016, if the device is shown to provide better care.

The InfraScanner was developed by InfraScan with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to detect brain hematoma on the battlefield. The device was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for marketing in the United States in 2013.

Doctors at London's Air Ambulance said the device has particular potential for use because 60 percent of the 1,806 patients they treated in 2014 were involved in traffic accidents or high falls, which often cause head injuries.

"It is really important to be able to find out what is going on inside a patient's head, and get a clearer picture of any injuries sustained," Mark Wilson, a consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College London and doctor for London's Air Ambulance, said in a press release. "By doing this during the transfer to hospital, we hope to be able to expedite treatments, such as surgery, by knowing in advance what type of brain injury the patient has."

The device takes about two minutes to scan for bleeding on the brain, which doctors at London's Air Ambulance said allows them to know which treatments to use and which to avoid, as well as offer doctors at the hospital more information about a patient's condition before arrival.

Wilson told the BBC the device could have a big impact if adopted by London's Air Ambulance and other emergency medical services, explaining, "head injuries are fairly common, and currently we manage all patients in same way as we can't tell what's going on inside your head."

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