In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) there is a classic scene addressing brain hematomas and the differences between 2oth century medicine: “A simple evacuation of the expanding epidural hematoma will relieve the pressure!” and 23rd century medicine where doctors knew that “drilling holes in people’s heads wasn’t the answer” and the treatment for an epidural hematoma was to repair the middle meningeal artery, usually with the use of a small device fitted over the patient’s forehead. (More information: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) I believe it was explained that an epidural hematoma was a type of brain injury that could occur in Humans, in particular after massive head trauma such as that associated with a steep or long fall (due to gravity of course). It is somewhat similar to a subdural hematoma (sort of – this is a venous bleed whereas an epidural hematoma is an arterial bleed).
Doctor #1: What’s your degree in, dentistry?
McCoy: How do YOU explain slowing pulse, low respiratory rate and coma?
Doctor #1: Fundascopic examination!
McCoy: Fundascopic examination is unrevealing in these cases!
Doctor #1: A simple evacuation of the epidural hematoma will relieve the pressure!
McCoy: My God man, drilling holes in his head is not the answer! The artery must be repaired! Now, put away your butcher’s knives and let me save this patient before it’s too late!
Now comes news of a new device that will assist in the identification of brain hematomas.
Usually the result of serious or minor head injuries, subdural hematomas cause blood to collect in the brain. At their worst, they can cause blood to fill the brain area very rapidly, compressing brain tissue and often resulting in death. Targeting this life-threatening condition, InfraScan Inc.(Philadelphia) has designed the Infrascanner Model 2000, a screening device that assists first responders and clinicians in the identification of brain hematomas. Chosen as a finalist for this year’s Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA), this noninvasive, portable, handheld device will share the stage at the MDEA award ceremony, to be held June 19 in conjunction with MD&M East.
The Model 2000 imaging device uses near-infrared (NIR) light to detect brain hematomas after traumatic brain injury. “Acute hematomas result in an approximately tenfold greater concentration of hemoglobin than in normal brain tissue,” explains David L. Solt, vice president R&D of InfraScan. “Because the absorption of NIR light is greater on the side of the brain containing a hematoma than on the side with no hematoma, our device can pinpoint where severe trauma has occurred.” With the ability to detect the hematoma in patients before they are transported to a medical facility, proper intervention can begin to prevent further brain damage.
Until now, no handheld device has existed for helping clinicians determine whether a life-threatening brain bleed is occurring, Solt remarks. “Thus, we felt that the market needed a low-cost, rugged, lightweight, accurate, and effective tool that would be useful as a screening device at the places where acute traumatic brain injury occurs.”