Transcranial Doppler Device May Diagnose Concussion, New Study

Transcranial Doppler Device May Diagnose Concussion, Study

Transcranial Doppler device effective in concussion detection.

Mapping blood flow in the brain of athletes using an advanced form of ultrasound may make it easier to more accurately recognise concussions, a new study has revealed.

A new study from Robert Hamilton, Ph.D., co-founder of the L.A.-based software company Neural Analytics, points to using a transcranial Doppler device (TCD) to map blood flow in the brains of athletes as a way to more accurately and more immediately recognize and diagnose concussions.

Traditionally, concussions are diagnosed a good time after the impact event by MRI—and sometimes only in individuals with worsening or the most severe symptoms.

“There is growing evidence that concussions can change the blood flow in the brain,” said Hamilton. “While such changes may be detected with MRI, we believe there may be a less expensive and portable way to measure these changes with a TCD device.”

TCD uses ultrasound to map blood flow activity in the brain; but, the measurements it takes are usually not enough to diagnose a concussion by itself. The traditional technology only measures variables like the speed and pulse of blood flowing through arteries.

So for this study, researchers developed an advanced version of the TCD ultrasound to get a more complete picture of just how blood moves through the middle cerebral artery—one of the three major arteries in the brain.

Hamilton and his team tested the advanced TCD ultrasound technique on 235 high school athletes—66 of which participated in contact sports and had been recently diagnosed with a concussion; and 169 from both contact and non-contact sports that had not been diagnosed with a concussion recently.

Each of the concussed athletes had their brain blood flow measured with the advanced ultrasound headset within an average of six days after the injury.

According to the press release, the study found that the advanced version of TCD ultrasound was able to differentiate between healthy and concussed athletes 83 percent of the time. Meanwhile, traditional TCD ultrasound techniques only differentiated between the two groups 53 to 60 percent of the time, depending on the specific measurement.

While more research is needed, initial results point to the possibility of one day having a headset tool that could be used on the sidelines to help determine more quickly if an athlete needs further testing.

“The potential of having an accessible technology that detects a physiological change following brain trauma is very exciting,” said Jeffrey Kutcher, MD, with The Sports Neurology Clinic in Brighton, Michigan. “However, what these detected blood flow changes mean to a patient’s clinical care is still unclear.”

According to the study authors, the next step will be testing the advanced TCD technique at the sideline at the time of injury to determine its ultimate utility.