New tool could revolutionize brain pressure monitoring after TBI

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The device used to noninvasively monitor intracranial pressure is shown during a recording session. Credit: © 2017 AANS.

Traumatic brain injuries can cause a number of secondary issues, the most dangerous of which would be increased pressure in the brain. As the pressure in the brain increases after an injury, it can cause numerous serious problems including severe brain damage and even death.

Unfortunately, the only way to monitor intracranial pressure (ICP) involves surgically installing invasive monitoring devices.

Now, a team of researchers from a university in Germany says they have tested a non-invasive tool for monitoring ICP that is just as accurate as traditional invasive methods. The device works by passing sound waves through the brain and evaluating it on the other side.

As the team led by Oliver Ganslandt, M.D., explains in the Journal of Neurosurgery, the average human intracranial pressure is 20 mm Hg or lower. However, the brain responds to trauma with inflammation intended to stop further damage. In the case of serious injuries, this inflammatory response can become so significant it leads to damage of its own.

Numerous tools have been developed to replace typical invasive monitoring devices, but none have been able to meet the level of accuracy. Invasive catheters used for measuring ICP also have the benefit of being able to reduce pressure in the brain by extracting excess cerebrospinal fluid. However, this benefit is accompanied by the risk of infection, bleeding, and other issues related to surgical operations.

The new device, dubbed the HS-1000 and developed by HeadSense Medical, Ltd, emits a short 6-second-long sound in one ear. This sound passes through the cranium and is received by sensors placed in the other ear. From there, this sound is evaluated using advanced signal analysis algorithms to assess intracranial pressure.

Ganslandt and his colleagues tested the noninvasive tool with 14 patients receiving treatment for traumatic brain injury in an intensive care unit while the patients were already being monitored using invasive tools. By doing this, the team was able to compare the readings of the two devices simultaneously.

According to the report, the noninvasive tool was practically identical to the invasive device’s readings of intracranial pressure. There was some variance between the two, but it was considered insignificant. The researchers note there was similar variance when comparing the two most commonly used invasive intracranial monitoring systems.

While the findings look good, the researchers say they are still in relatively early development. They believe further research and tweaking is needed before they will consider releasing the device on a large scale.

“The first results look promising, but further refinements in the algorithm will be necessary to allow a reliable clinical application,” Dr. Ganslandt told Medical Xpress.

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