The second problem was how to make the machine move when scanning a stationary patient. The solution was a novel set of tanklike tracks. “I needed an electrical guy to give me a motor and drive, and a robotics guy to make sure it could cantilever properly over rough surfaces, and a software guy to guide it through its steps,” says Gordon.
Finally, the device needed to be very rugged and simple to use. Whereas big scanners must operate at room temperature in order to preserve image quality, NeuroLogica’s machine is designed for temperatures ranging from slightly less than 0 degrees C to 38 degrees C. It also includes a touch-screen interface that walks the operator through the scanning steps. All this in a 340-kilogram machine, light enough to be pushed by one technician and small enough to fit through a standard doorway.
“Neurologists are dying for a machine like this, especially in ICUs [intensive-care units],” says Walter Koroshetz, a neurologist and head of stroke and neurointensive-care services at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “We need to be able to scan these patients in the unit, not 10 flights away, dragging along nurses and doctors and wires and equipment.”
Eric M. Bailey, another of the company’s founders, says building the machine didn’t involve developing new technology so much as essentially solving a complex packaging problem. It represents a leap beyond the previous best effort, heads-only CT scanners shrunk enough to fit into some ICUs but not portable or able to produce images that are up to today’s standards. Says Bailey, “Frankly, it’s just stupid people haven’t thought of it sooner.”