THE PICTURE OF HEALTH
A Philadelphia developer’s portable scanner is saving lives faster than ever.
Consider this scenario: an accident scene, a playground, even a battlefield. Someone is lying on the ground, dazed, confused, and perhaps unconscious. Certainly, there is trauma. But how much? Is there internal bleeding? Most important, how fast can the trauma be ascertained? Fast enough to save a life?
Until now, EMTs and First Responders had their hands tied. All they could do was rush the victim to the nearest hospital. Then wait for lengthy, and costly, CT scans. If a brain hematoma was discovered the patient was rushed to the regional trauma center for a brain surgery, where a CT scan is typically repeated before the surgery. And as they waited, precious minutes ticked by and the proverbial “golden hour”—the 60 minutes following head trauma when a victim’s neurological condition must be diagnosed and treated—evaporated. Because of unavoidable delays, and, in the Third World, primitive conditions, untold patients suffered irreversible brain damage.
But no longer.
Not since Philadelphia-based InfraScan developed a revolutionary new handheld, non-invasive scanner able to screen for brain bleeding quickly and on-site.
“Some two million Americans suffer head injuries every year,” says Dr. Baruch Ben Dor, InfraScan President and CEO, “with as many as eight million more around the world. With wars, head injuries are growing—some 40 percent of battlefield brain injuries involve brain hematomas. Currently, the gold standard is the CT scan."
But in many cases, Ben Dor explains, CT scans are not available or not practical—for children, for example. The scans give a huge dose of radiation—something best not to put children through unless it's absolutely necessary.
“Our answer,” Ben Dor continues, “is the Infrascanner, a simple, low-cost, accurate hematoma screening detection device. It works in a variety of settings, in the field as well as in hospital emergency rooms and ICU units. And it immediately identifies patients who need urgent neurosurgery.”
In other words, it saves lives immediately. And it continues to save lives as trauma and stroke patients are monitored for further hematoma symptoms. Here’s how the Infrascanner works:
A small, portable device, the Infrascanner uses the light-absorbing property of hemoglobin in the blood. Normally, the brain’s blood absorption should be symmetrical. However, when, due to internal bleeding, additional underlying extra vascular blood is present, there is a greater local concentration of hemoglobin. Consequently, the absorbance of light is greater while the reflected component is less. Based on this differential—the near infrared (NIR) light absorption of bleeding versus non-bleeding parts of the brain—Infrascanner detects hematomas.
While the idea seems incredibly simple now, it is based in the patented, painstaking laboratory work of physicist Dr. Britton Chance, from the University of Pennsylvania, and neurosurgeon Dr. Claudia Robertson, from Baylor College of Medicine. Once the pair had positive results from the technology, InfraScan went into business. Raising start-up monies from several sources, including grants from the United States Army and Navy, InfraScan received matching funds from the Biotechnology Greenhouse of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BioAdvance), the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.
“From a start-up’s point of view, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia come very close to Silicon Valley," Ben Dor says. "The most important thing here that helps many medical device start-ups to thrive is all the early-stage funding available through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. All those initiatives provide the funding at the most critical time in the life of a company—the beginning. They provide momentum—so that venture funds will be looking at start-ups seriously.
“They were all extremely helpful,” he adds, “providing business, marketing, and communications advice. They were especially good at providing guidance to focus the company strategically, helping us promote our product to such key target audiences as neurosurgeons and emergency medicine units.”
Because InfraScan is still pending U.S. FDA approval, the company is currently selling the device only overseas—the United Kingdom and Europe, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand.
Here in the U.S., it has already completed multi-central clinical trials positively—two in Philadelphia, one each in Houston and Cincinnati. In addition, Infrascanner has succeeded in Navy and Marine field evaluations in Iraq. “The military was extremely happy with the performance,” Ben Dor says.
Given its strong start, Infrascanner stands a good chance for success, perhaps revolutionizing emergency medicine, saving countless lives by using NIR technology to monitor screen trauma victims and stroke patients. “We’ve had expressions of interest from lots of clinicians in the United States,” Ben Dor says. “So much so that we believe if the FDA approves the Infrascanner, we’ll be able to launch sales immediately.