Cost-effective brain sensor developed

Treating head injuries

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), has developed an entirely indigenous prototype of the intracranial pressure (ICP) sensor that detects intensity and location of fluid pressure within the skull due to severe head injuries.

The immediate benefit of the prototype is reduction in cost of treatment of head injuries.
Nimhans director Dr P Satishchandra told Deccan Herald: “We had been working on the ICP sensor for quite some time, but now we have completed the prototype. We know how it looks and how it is to be fitted into the brain. We will deploy it for testing very soon.”

The director said, “Imported sensors are too expensive. We were looking to manufacture an indigenous monitor/sensor that costs less. We wish to reduce the treatment cost for patients.” An imported sensor costs anywhere between $ 3000 and $ 5000 (roughly Rs 1.86 lakh to Rs 3.1 lakh), while the Indian one is expected to cost 10 times less. This drastically reduces treatment cost.

Prof Rudra Pratap, scientist at the Centre for Nano Sciences, IISc, says: ”The Indian sensor will cost a few thousand rupees. It is less than a millimetre in size. It can be inserted with ease. The sensors are also the throwaway kind - you use them once and dispose them of. The lower cost allows the disposal of the sensors.”

Intracranial pressure

Pressure within the skull known as intracranial pressure is caused by head injuries, presence of tumour, stroke or infection.

“The cerebro-spinal fluid within the brain undergoes massive unevenness after a head injury. Excessive fluid may be produced and not be absorbed by the body in the right proportion. This creates pressure within the brain and the skull. If the pressure is too high from the fluid, it can have severe consequences and the brain can even burst.
Anticipating and containing that pressure is the key to early treatment of the imbalance in the cerebro-spinal fluid,” Satishchandra explained.

The Nimhans director said that the sensor acts as an early warning system.

”It will tell us in advance how much pressure is likely to build up and indicate the symptoms of this build-up. The course of treatment will be different, from the context in which the pressure is already built up. Doctors will act to contain the pressure caused by the imbalance in the cerebro-spinal fluid.”

The sensor is inserted either above or below the covering of the brain, depending on diagnosis. This is done through a minor surgical process.

The sensor is placed for a few days within the brain to measure ICP and the patient stays in hospital during that period. Once pressure is recorded, the sensor can be removed. It is made of non-infective material that is very fine, a mix of aluminium and platinum.

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