Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the signature wound of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conservative estimates put the number of U.S. warfighters who have experienced TBI at more than 200,000.
Battlefield medical personnel today rely on visual signs and the personal accounts of patients to alert them to the possibility of TBI. The DARPA Blast Gauge provides a quantitative means for measuring blast related exposure, thus providing a mechanism for medical personnel to better identify those at risk for TBI. The gauge collects quantitative data to provide medics with a screening tool and data for uncovering the mechanisms of TBI.
During a recent engagement, a soldier suffered a shrapnel injury and did not report a blast exposure to the medic treating his visible wounds. The medic opted to check the Blast Gauges on the soldier, which told the real story.
The soldier’s gauges displayed yellow lights, indicating a moderate exposure occurred during the engagement. In response, the medics downloaded data from the gauges and followed standard protocol for evaluating someone at risk for TBI. It was determined that the soldier had suffered a mild TBI and treatment began immediately.
This is one example drawn from DARPA’s pilot testing of the Blast Gauge, which began last year.
It is a small self-contained system that measures the amount of blast exposure to which a warfighter has been exposed. The first phase of the pilot included an initial Army brigade-level fielding that involved approximately 900 soldiers, in an active combat role. Today the DARPA Blast Gauge is used by more than 6,400 warfighters in a variety of units across the Military. Phase II of the pilot calls for plans to double that number over the next month.
“DARPA Blast Gauge provides doctors with information on what their patient actually experienced during an exposure.” said Jeff Rogers, DARPA program manager. “After a blast, medics check a wristwatch-sized device displaying a green, yellow or red status light to indicate the relative risk of injury. This is an entirely new capability and has already helped medics and doctors in treating injured warfighters.”
The Gauge provides warfighters with an immediate triage capability and collects quantitative data for later analysis.
While the Army continues its efforts to develop its long-term TBI diagnostic solution for the battlefield, the $45 per unit DARPA Blast Gauge fills an immediate need—accurate measurements for medical teams and visible signs of exposure. “The gauges work extremely well,” explained U.S. Army Major Theodore R. Stefani, MD.
In its 2013 National Defense Authorization Act Report, the House Armed Services Committee encouraged the military services to begin using the DARPA Blast Gauge.
Under contract to DARPA, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) developed the gauge in just 11 months and for a total development cost of approximately $1 million.
In response to DARPA’s need for larger production quantities and rapid device refinement, RIT researchers subsequently formed BlackBox Biometrics, a small business, to commercialize and manufacture the Blast Gauges.
Information for this story provided by DARPA
Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website.