Philips, MIT partner to develop ultrasound brain injury detection

Philips' mobile ultrasound--Courtesy of Philips

Royal Philips ($PHG) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have teamed up to develop a noninvasive means of measuring intracranial pressure (ICP) to detect brain injuries. It's expected to incorporate Philips' ultrasound technology and MIT's physiological modeling. Earlier this year, the pair announced a $25 million research partnership intended to span 5 years.

The intention with this brain injury detection project is to develop an alternative to the standard ICP measurement procedures that are used today, which require surgical penetration of the skull or lumbar spine in addition to the insertion of a catheter. This procedure benefits only a small number of patients with the most severe head injuries and poses a risk of infection or damage.

Philips and MIT are starting a study of a core estimation algorithm that has been developed by the Integrative Neuro-monitoring and Critical Care Informatics Group in MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES). It will measure ICP via ultrasound in patients who would not have routine monitoring because of the risks associated with current measurement approaches.

"The current invasive method of measuring ICP is used only in the sickest patients, but knowledge of ICP is potentially important in a much broader population," principal investigator Thomas Heldt, the Hermann von Helmholtz Career Development Professor at MIT's IMES and assistant professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said in a statement.

He added, "Our goal is to develop a noninvasive method of measuring ICP that could be used in treating a much wider range of conditions. This project gives us an exciting opportunity to test innovative hardware and modeling techniques at the bedside in real time."

Within the next two years, the pair hope to develop a noninvasive, portable ultrasound approach to estimating ICP that doesn't require calibration. The expectation is that this would enable expanded ICP measurement into patients such as those with unexplained headaches, mild or moderate traumatic brain injury and even coma patients.

The project will be based out of Philips' new North American research headquarters in Cambridge, MA, which is intended as a base for collaborations with academics and other partners.

"Today it is very difficult to gauge the level of head trauma someone has sustained at the scene of an incident, because there is no quick and effective way to gauge the pressure inside the skull," said Dr. Joseph Frassica, CSO of Philips Research North America, in a statement. "Through this research, we hope to use the same technology most people associate with the first images of their child, in a way that has the potential to help us to differentiate a concussion from a serious traumatic brain injury and everything in between."

He added, "Whether you're a high school football player, in the NFL, a soldier in the battlefield, or unfortunate enough to be injured in an auto accident--we hope that this technology will give first responders a better way to determine if you have a life-threatening brain injury and allow faster and more accurate triage and treatment. By improving access and response times, these types of solutions have the potential to really impact patient outcomes."

Philips isn't alone in contributing to major brain tech-transfer projects. Its latest MIT news comes just as the Kavli Foundation and its university partners have committed more than $100 million to study the brain and related disorders. The funding is part of the public-private BRAIN initiative launched by President Obama in April 2013.

Most of the funds will go to establish three new Kavli neuroscience institutes at the Johns Hopkins University, The Rockefeller University and the University of California at San Francisco. These will be a part of 7 international Kavli neuroscience institutes. 

- here is the Philips/MIT announcement
- and here is the Kavli Foundation release

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