NI LabVIEW PDA-Based System Helps EMS Personnel Save Lives

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"Using Active Signal Technologies sensors and the LabVIEW Mobile Module, we took a powerful laptop-based hospital diagnosis tool and modified the code for deployment on a PDA. The handheld device allows for noninvasive brain assessment and quick diagnoses, and increases the chances of full patient recovery."

- David McAndrew, Mink Hollow System, Inc.

The Challenge:
Delivering a portable, noninvasive instrument for first responders to assess a patient’s neurological condition and provide early detection of traumatic brain injury (TBI) as well as diagnosis and differentiation of stroke.

The Solution:
Using a Pocket PC, LabVIEW Mobile Module, and the NI Measurement Hardware DDK Pocket PC to process and measure signals, our solution allows for rapid product development, resulting in quicker deployment to first responders and increased accuracy in patient brain assessment diagnoses.

David McAndrew - Mink Hollow System, Inc.
Edward Delaplaine - Mink Hollow Systems, Inc.
John Sewell - Active Signal Technologies, Inc.

Small Yet Powerful Monitoring

Under a grant from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Active Signal Technologies and NI Silver Alliance Partner Mink Hollow Systems developed a PDA-based NI LabVIEW application with which medical professionals can directly monitor physiological variables associated with stroke and trauma and process data for prehospital brain assessment. The handheld device is small enough to deploy to ambulances and MedEvac helicopters, and powerful enough to provide noninvasive feedback to the first responder for improved diagnosis. The system size and capabilities make it ideal for many time-critical markets with limited diagnostic resources, such as in military and emergency medical environments.

Filling a Critical Need

Because treatment for head injury and/or stroke is time critical (medical professionals often refer to the "golden hour" of head trauma and the "three-hour window" of ischemic stroke for administration of clot busters), rapid prehospital diagnosis fulfills a vital need. But due to the size of computerized tomography equipment, such prehospital diagnostics were previously impossible.

With the advent of the LabVIEW Mobile Module, the possibility of transforming a handheld device into a powerful diagnostic tool has become reality. An ideal alternative to bulky, inconvenient equipment, handheld PDA devices are widely used in the medical community, albeit mostly for record keeping or other database applications.

Now, the LabVIEW-equipped Pocket PC stroke monitor has been added to the arsenal of prehospital care providers. While still under development, this tool, which combines data acquisition and analysis capability with a compact PDA package, meshes seamlessly with the ambulance and MedEvac environment. Currently, Maryland Emergency Medical Services Systems is testing systems developed jointly by Mink Hollow Systems and Active Signal Technologies, specifically in MedEvacs for trauma, and ambulances for early differentiation of strokes. The same technology could benefit the U.S. military, where direct field head injury diagnostics are critically needed.

Developing a Compact Solution

Mink Hollow Systems and Active Signal Technologies previously joined forces to create a laptop-based brain assessment monitor for use in hospital emergency rooms. The monitor has been highly successful in quickly diagnosing brain trauma and early stroke subtype differentiation. We ruled out its use because MedEvac and ambulance environmental constraints prevent bulky laptop use in transit and during prehospital treatment, where space and usability are at a premium. Accordingly, we initiated a second development phase to create a smaller instrument that would enable first responders to test in both ambulances and MedEvacs.

The result is a portable, noninvasive brain assessment system. It weighs less than 1 pound and measures 14 cm x 9 cm x 6 cm, including the signal conditioning cradle.

In a parallel development effort, Active Signal Technologies developed the next generation of sensors suitable for noninvasive measurements in unstable and noisy environments, such as those of MedEvacs and ambulances. Mink Hollow Systems reduced the software size and modified the graphical user interface (GUI) and file I/O, but kept the vital signal processing technology used in the laptop system and integrated it into the Pocket PC. Because LabVIEW is available on the Pocket PC, we saved countless hours of development time that we would have needed to rewrite code in another language and select, write drivers for, and test a data acquisition PCMCIA card.

Diagnostic Capabilities Invaluable in Multiple Environments

Along with the Maryland Emergency Medical Services Systems, we have successfully tested the system in ambulances and MedEvac helicopters. Future development includes wireless sensors for easier connection to the patient and improved GUI and data processing. We will add sensor capability and enhance software versatility with windowing capabilities. Also, with PDA wireless networking capabilities and LabVIEW ease of integration, the software may soon connect to remote hospital networks as the first responder vehicle arrives, allowing for efficient, accurate, virtually instantaneous patient data relay. At the conclusion of this process, we expect to obtain FDA approval for the device.

In addition to the large U.S. EMS community, both the military and global markets could benefit from the system. Active Signal has fielded calls for diagnostic capability to aid in early diagnosis of head trauma in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Increasing Patient Recovery Rates

Accurate brain assessment is critical in trauma situations, and the faster the diagnosis is made, the better the chance of complete patient recovery. When limited tools are available to first responders, these diagnoses can be difficult to make, resulting in longer time before treatment. Using Active Signal Technologies sensors and the LabVIEW Mobile Module, we took a powerful laptop-based hospital diagnosis tool and modified the code for deployment on a PDA. The handheld device allows for noninvasive brain assessment and quick diagnoses, and increases the chances of full patient recovery.

The medical community, which currently includes 45,000 EMS platforms, will benefit from successful system tests in MedEvac helicopters and ambulances. As this breakthrough technology continues to grow, the LabVIEW Mobile Module stands to serve as one of the most important and influential tools by helping critical caretakers speed up diagnoses and save lives.

Author Information:
David McAndrew
Mink Hollow System, Inc.
120 Ashton Road
Ashton, MD 20861
United States
Tel: 301-260-1821
Fax: 240-342-2045

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