Brain

Featured study: detecting brain injury faster

Southampton researchers are looking for healthy people to be part of developing a safe, headphone-like tool for quick, painless measurement of pressure on the brain (intracranial pressure or ICP). It’s a device that could save lives through rapid, accurate assessments that will identify those in need of immediate intensive care.

Dangerous and difficult to detect

High pressure inside the skull caused by head injury, leaking blood vessels or infection within the brain can lead to headaches, progressing to confusion, coma or death if left to rise unchecked. Because of this, recognising and detecting raised pressure inside the skull early is essential to avoid worsening of symptoms, and to start effective treatment of the cause immediately.

 

Currently the only reliable way to measure this pressure is to operate, drilling a hole through the skull through which a pressure probe can be placed into the brain. 

This is only performed in the most severe cases, because of the obvious trauma and also significant risks such as infection or bleeding in the brain. That means that high ICP may not be diagnosed effectively in patients with less severe initial symptoms, delaying and limiting treatment with potentially significant consequences.

A new tool, as simple as wearing headphones

Rob Marchbanks and his team have been working on a device that aims to change this dramatically; a headphone-like object that measures the wearer’s ICP, without the need to open the skull and insert something into the brain. 

Their aim is to make ICP measurement as quick and simple as taking blood pressure. Their prototype is already well developed, attracting interest from NASA for use in space where changes in astronauts’ ICP are a key concern. 

Their current research aims to make it easier to use, and to measure ICP in healthy people to define a normal range of pressure before testing the equipment’s ability to detect raised ICP in patients.

Get involved

The team now need the help of healthy people to identify a normal range of pressures before using the headset with patients. We really want to hear from you if you can spare two hours and are:

  • aged 20 to 80 years
  • have no current ear, nose or throat problems
  • have not had ear surgery in the past (except grommets)

Reasonable travel expenses will be provided.

To find out more, please contact Shannon on 023 8120 3370 or Gabriella on 023 8120 3713, or you can send an email to ICPstudy@uhs.nhs.uk.