Micro-X miniature CT scanner to enter clinical trials


A world-first mobile lightweight CT brain scanner (pictured) is set to be tested in two major hospitals as two companies zero in on the promise of stroke diagnosis at the point of treatment – including in an attending ambulance.

Cold cathode X-ray manufacturer Micro-X will begin clinical trials this year at Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Royal Adelaide Hospital of its scanner which miniaturises X-ray machines 10 times the size.

Made possible by the company’s invention of a new way to generate X-rays utilising a carbon nanotube array, the CT device would enable paramedics to produce a scan of a patient’s brain in eight seconds at any location, and then forward the image to a stroke specialist for assessment.

The potentially game changing technology could treat stroke patients in the so-called golden hour – the first hour after a stroke – giving patients a higher chance of survival or recovery.

Micro-X Chief Operating Officer and Engineering Manager Anthony Skeats said: “Early diagnosis and pre-hospital treatment of strokes has been shown to hugely improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs, revolutionising stroke treatment, particularly in rural and remote locations.

“With the Micro-X Head CT device, paramedics will be able to have a 3D image developed of the brain and then have these images sent instantaneously to a stroke specialist who can determine the type of stroke and then notify the paramedics whether they need to administer drugs or bring them to hospital.”

The Micro-X Head CT device is expected to weigh less than 70kg compared to 500kg for a conventional CT.

Manufactured at its plant at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide, the scanner is made up of 21 mini X-ray tubes above a curved detector that are rapidly switched on and off in succession, rather than the heavy rotating X-ray tube and gantry used in traditional CT.

The trial is a milestone for the ASX-listed company which has developed its CT technology backed by $8 million in funding from the Australian Stroke Alliance under the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

The two main types of strokes are ischemic strokes – caused by blockage of an artery – and haemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding on the brain – the type of stroke determines the treatment.

Skeats said: “As part of the hospital trials we will need to identify each of the five different types of brain bleeds multiple times to show the scanner can accurately determine the different strokes patients are having.”

There is no doubt the Micro-X technology is an elegant solution to a pressing need – but the company does not have the way open to it without competition.

The stroke alliance has also funded EMVision medical devices to the tune of $8 million to develop its microwave approach to brain scanning for stroke detection.

Both approaches are in advanced development, with Micro-X contemplating the possible uses for a small device that can replace cumbersome CT scanners.

Skeats said: “We want to expand its use so it is not just in ambulances, but it can also be used in ICU, healthcare units and radiology clinics.

“The applications of the scanner can also be extended to be used to detect spinal cord injuries, for example following a road accident, or used to simply scan a person’s hand to see whether they have a fracture, eliminating unnecessary trips to a hospital.”

Further reading:
Micro-X reveals details of its in-ambulance CT scanner – video
Keysight takes $15 million stake in EMVision

Picture: Tonsley Innovation District/Anthony Skeats and the Micro-X CT brain scanner

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