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Brain scanner trial by London's Air Ambulance a world first

Infrascanner detects life threatening brain injuries which can be reported to emergency departments to prepare ahead of a patient's arrival to hospital

London's Air Ambulance brain scanner trial(Image: London's Air Ambulance)

A brain scanner to detect life threatening head injuries at the scene of an accident is being nearing the end of its trial in a world first by London’s Air Ambulance.

The Infrascanner is a hand held device being tested by doctors in the pre-hospital environment and works by detecting the seriousness of blood clots on the brain which can be relayed to emergency departments prior to a patients arrival.

The early diagnosis can speed up a patient’s access to any further treatment they may need once they arrive at the hospital.

The charity, which has also secured a second emergency medical helicopter following a fundraising campaign, began the trial in Spring 2015 and will end in Spring 2016 and has been used on over 60 patients to date.

Mark Wilson, London Air Ambulance doctor and consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College London, said: “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.

“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.”

Saving time, saving lives

The Infrascanner takes less than two minutes to operate and better informs surgeons of life threatening bleeding on the brain so they can set up operating theatres accordingly and be ready for the next stage of treatment.

The device can be used while the patient is being transferred to hospital, saving critical time, and also means medical teams know when not to carry out certain treatments too.

It is reported to have a 90% accuracy rate in hospital for finding blood clots on the brain.

With this trial, the air ambulance is aiming to match these figures in the pre-hospital environment.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Brain Injury Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) has provided the seed funding through its ‘Innovation Small Funding Competition 2014-5’ to initiate this ‘Pre Hospital Brain Imaging’ pilot study.

Pre-hospital scanning was identified as a major urgent need by patients and carer representatives.

Professor John D Pickard, honorary director of the NIHR Brain Injury HTC, said: “The HTC is delighted to be supporting Dr Wilson’s vision of pre-hospital imaging of head injured patients through this pilot study.

“London’s Air Ambulance and other pre-hospital emergency providers are to be congratulated upon their enthusiasm for research to identify affordable ways to further improve the outcomes for our critically injured patients.”

Last year the charity treated 1806 patients, 60% of which were involved in road traffic collisions and falls from heights – commonly associated with causing head injury.

On average five critically injured people in London are treated daily, performing medical interventions at the roadside which are normally only found in a hospital emergency department.

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