The US Department of Defense may soon start using smartphone-based diagnosis tools to detect traumatic brain injuries in soldiers on the battlefield. According to a post on its "Armed with Science" blog, the DoD is working with Bethesda, Maryland-based BrainScope to put its FDA-cleared Ahead 200 device into action.
Currently, it takes a CT scan to definitively establish the presence of a traumatic brain injury, and CT scanners are large devices that can't easily be transported outside of the hospital. So on the battlefield, medics have to resort to asking questions about immediately obvious symptoms like headaches, nausea and light sensitivity.
The Ahead 200 device doesn't replace the CT Scan, but it does provide a middle ground between the CT and the questionnaire that's much more portable and practical to determine whether a unit needs to expend the resources to pull a military service member from the front lines and send them to a hospital.
“Those [CT scan] X-rays have radiation, so we don’t want to do more of them than we need, especially in a theater of war,” Army Col. Dallas Hack, the director of combat casualty care for the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland, told Armed with Science. “[The device] will be very useful in the field, to be able to know whether it’s worth everybody’s risk to actually evacuate this person somewhere and get that CT scan or not.”
The device consists of a headpiece with a number of EEG leads which connects to an Android smartphone, which runs the diagnostic software. It's FDA-cleared for prescription use by trained medical professionals only.
"The Ahead 200 is intended to record, measure, analyze, and display brain electrical activity utilizing the calculation of standard quantitative EEG (qEEG) parameters from frontal locations on a patient’s forehead," the company writes in its 510(k) summary. "The Ahead 200 calculates and displays raw measures for the following standard qEEG measures: Absolute and Relative Power, Asymmetry, Coherence and Fractal Dimension. These raw measures are intended to be used for post hoc analysis of EEG signals for interpretation by a qualified user."
The Department of Defense has dabbled in mobile health for a number of years, though mostly via its agency, the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2). T2 has released a biofeedback app called BioZen, also for Android, and 20 other apps including a mood tracker, an app for managing PTSD, and an app to help cope with stress using breathing exercises. In addition, the agency maintains two online communities to help people in the service and their families deal with the wide range of issues affecting them: afterdeployment.org and militarykidsconnect.org.