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Researchers have made remarkable progress over the last decade in the treatment and prevention of traumatic brain injuries. However, it goes without saying that more work needs to be done regarding the initial diagnoses of TBIs. Far too often, physicians miss the warning signs of brain injuries — complaints of dizziness, blurred vision and loss of balance, etc. — which can have significant and perhaps even deadly consequences for patients.
Interestingly, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have devised a new test that they say will not only revolutionize the diagnosis of TBIs but also cost providers next to nothing.
The tool is the Volumetric Electromagnetic Phase Shift Spectroscopy (VEPS) headset, which is essentially a receiver that transmits low energy electromagnetic fields through the brain to a coil receiver/computer, which analyzes the measured wavelengths for any anomalies.
Here, the anomalies in question would either be edemas — which are brain swelling caused by excessive fluids flooding the brain tissue — or hematomas — which can form throughout the brain due to the accumulation of excess blood.
The fluid buildup associated with either one of these neurological conditions would manifest itself as abnormal wavelengths picked up by the VEPS headset.
“We have adjusted the coils so that if the brain works perfectly, we have a clean signal,” explained Boris Rubinsky of UC Berkeley. “Whenever there are interferences in the functioning of the brain, we detect them as changes in the received signal. We can tell from the changes, or ‘noises,’ what the brain injury is.”
What makes the VEPS headset so revolutionary, say its creators, is that it’s fast, cheap and accurate. Not only would it help improve diagnosis in larger urban centers, but it could be used in rural areas where ready access to CT scans or other advanced technology may not be a reality. In that regard, they argue that the VEPS headset could act as a sort of diagnostic middleman, informing medical professionals in rural areas that there is an elevated danger of a TBI and that the patient needs to make the trip to a hospital for help.
“Some people might delay traveling to a hospital to get examined because it is an hour or more away, or because it is exceedingly expensive,” said Rubinsky. “If people had access to an affordable device that could indicate whether there is brain damage or not, they could then make an informed decision about making that trip to a facility to get prompt treatment, which is especially important for head injuries.”
It should be noted that while the researchers gathered largely positive results, their sample size was relatively small — 46 healthy patients and eight patients already diagnosed with a TBI via a CT scan at a military hospital in Mexico. Accordingly, they indicated that additional research and a larger sample size are needed.
Please visit our website to learn more about traumatic brain injuries.
Source: Wired UK, “Study: cheap electromagnetic headset remotely diagnoses brain trauma,” Cesar Gonzalez, May 15, 2013