A new device could diagnose traumatic brain injuries in a matter of seconds, a major study has revealed.
The research, published by the University of Birmingham, highlights the effectiveness of using chemical biomarkers to identify the severity of brain damage and improve the speed and focus of treatment.
According to the report, the brain releases chemicals immediately after sustaining injury or damage that can be analysed using a spectroscopic technique, known as “surface enhanced Raman scattering”, which can provide medical professionals with an “accurate indication of the level of injury that has occurred”. In trials involving patients with confirmed traumatic brain injuries, levels of these chemical biomarkers were around five times higher compared to a control group.
This technology has been harnessed by the researchers so it can be reproduced at low cost, potentially improving brain injury diagnosis times and treatments in every hospital across the UK. Medical professionals currently rely on subjective judgements based on the patient’s ability to open their eyes, their verbal responses and their ability to move in response to an instruction.
Commenting on the innovation, author Dr Goldberg Oppenheimer said: “This is a relatively straightforward and quick technique that offers a low-cost, but highly accurate way of assessing traumatic brain injury which up until now has not been possible.
“The current tools we use to diagnose TBI are really quite old fashioned, and rely on the subjective judgement of the paramedic or the emergency doctors.
“There’s an urgent need for new technology in this area to enable us to offer the right treatment for the patient, and also to avoid expensive and time-consuming tests for patients where there is no TBI.”
According to the latest statistics, there were 348,000 admissions to UK hospitals with an acquired brain injury in 2016-17 – the latest data available.