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Head Check

September 1, 2005

Accident victims could benefit from a new technology that helps paramedics assess brain injury during the crucial first minutes after a blow to the head. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a portable, noninvasive device that uses ultrasound to detect bleeding in the brain. Existing ultrasound technologies produce high-resolution images but require expensive equipment and highly trained personnel. This device, in contrast, doesn’t produce an image at all: it simply compares how each side of the brain reflects ultrasound waves and alerts the operator if there are asymmetries or abnormal signals. “We’re not trying to replace fancy imaging at hospitals,” says Joel Mobley, a researcher who helped develop the technology and now works at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, MD. “We want to give first responders critical information on what’s going on inside the head, so they know where the patient should be taken.” Oak Ridge’s Tuan Vo-Dinh estimates that it will take one to three years to get the technology licensed and earn U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

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