DOD Ends Battlefield Blast Gauge Program


By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon’s blast gauge program has been put on hold.

Thousands of combat troops in Afghanistan were outfitted with monitoring gauges that were meant to show whether service members had been close enough to an explosion to have sustained a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury. One of the major problems was that the gauges failed to show how much blast exposure is too much

The small wearable devices did produce evidence that many service members had been exposed to worrisome levels of blast pressure simply by being near a heavy weapon when it’s fired.

“The majority of exposures were not from improvised explosive devices, as you might expect,” says David Borkholder, an engineering professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the founder of BlackBox Biometrics, which makes the blast gauges. Instead, the culprit was usually “blast-intensive weapons systems” like recoilless rifles, shoulder-fired rockets, artillery and mortars, according to Borkholder.

Firing something like a recoilless rifle generates a powerful pressure wave both in front of and behind the weapon. Those pressure waves are usually less intense than those from a bomb. But exposures are far more common, and not limited to the battlefield.

The decision to warehouse the blast gauges is “a huge mistake,” says retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who was the Army’s vice chief of staff before retiring in 2012 and is now the chief executive officer of One Mind, a nonprofit focused on brain illness and injury.

The blast gauges are about the size of a quarter, and troops wear three of them on their helmets and upper bodies. The gauges contain sensors that measure overpressure, the sudden increase in air pressure caused by an explosion.

An overpressure of just 5 pounds per square inch can burst an eardrum. One-hundred PSI can be fatal. And somewhere in between is probably where most concussions occur.

The Department of Defense says it’s committed to determining the risks from overpressure exposure, both in combat and in training. It’s also testing a new generation of blast gauges that are more sensitive and easier to maintain.

But the military has made no commitment to deploying those gauges.

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BrainScope’s Diagnostic Device for TBI/Concussion Cleared by FDA


By Debbie Gregory.

BrainScope, a Maryland-based biotech firm is working on an easier way to diagnose concussions. The medical neuro-technology company  has developed a medical device to aid in the assessment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its milder forms (concussion) at the initial point of care.

The handheld, wearable Ahead 300 device uses electrodes to measure electronic activity inside your brain and transmit readings to a reconfigured Android smartphone. The company recently received clearance from the federal Food & Drug Administration to market the device.

The Ahead 300 features BrainScope’s proprietary, patent-protected electroencephalography (EEG) capabilities utilizing sophisticated algorithms and machine learning to analyze head-injured patient data.  Leveraging state-of-the-art handheld smartphone technology and a proprietary disposable electrode headset, the Ahead 300 provides a rapid, objective assessment of the likelihood of the presence of TBI in patients who present with mild symptoms at the point of care. In addition to EEG capabilities, the Ahead 300 includes additional assessments providing clinicians with a digitized, streamlined report, delivering a comprehensive and objective panel of results to facilitate their differential diagnosis.

“FDA clearance of the Ahead 300 is a bellwether moment in our company’s history. The Ahead 300 provides the specific capabilities needed today for the clinician to undertake a comprehensive assessment addressing the full spectrum of traumatic brain injury, from structural injuries visible on a CT scan, through mild TBI, also known as concussion,” stated Michael Singer, Chief Executive Officer of BrainScope.

BrainScope’s devices are focused on TBI in military, sports, and emergency/urgent care environments both in the U.S. and internationally.

The Department of Defense invested $27 million into the project in search of better ways of assessing traumatic brain injury among service members.

The technology was developed by the late Dr. E. Roy John and Leslie Prichep, a husband and wife duo of neuroscientists from New York University.

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Military Connection: Concussion Coach App: By Debbie Gregory

Concussion CoachEach year, thousands of military service members are treated for concussions and traumatic brain injuries. These injuries occur can occur in both combat and training environments. But brain injuries are not limited to members of the armed forces, they are also an issue for thousands of civilians as well.

Brain injuries can happen anywhere, and during nearly any activity. It is for this reason that Micaela Cornis-Pop of McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center headed a team that developed a mobile app for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The app, called Concussion Coach, is currently available for iPads and iPods, and is expected to be available on the Android platform soon.

The VA-sponsored mobile app was developed by rehabilitation services and the National Center for PTSD at the VA. Concussion Coach supports self-management of symptoms related to concussion.

The app is intended to provide education about concussion, and provide a self-assessment designed to identify symptoms that are often associated with a concussion. These questions are meant to ascertain whether you are dizzy, have issues with balance, have a headache after a collision, etc. Concussion Coach also offers its users a number of tools that can be helpful when problems occur. The app also contains a section that assists the user manage their concussion symptoms.

Concussion Coach also guides its users to additional resources and support. The app provides links to trusted internet websites that contain further information on concussion, links to resources at the VA, and information on how to find professional care for your concussion symptoms.

The design of the app was shaped through asking Veterans what they would want to see in an app of this nature. Although it was created by the VA for the betterment of Veterans, Concussion Coach is available to the public, who can also benefit from it. Cornis-Pop foresees parents using Concussion Coach, including its self- assessment and support features, in the unfortunate event that their children get injured.

“It can be used by anybody with the understanding that this does not diagnose ***or*** manage traumatic brain injury. It is a helpful tool to have in discussing with a specialized provider” Cornis-Pop said.

Concussion Coach is available to the public as an iPad ***or*** iPhone app. You can download the complimentary app at the app store.

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Military Connection: Concussion Coach App: By Debbie Gregory