Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. CHOICE PhD student Erik Landaas has partnered with PhD students at UW School of Nursing, Kwankaew Wongchareon and Ana Carolina Sauer Liberato, along with students at UW Computer Science, UW Engineering, and UW Neurosurgery to create a new mobile health phone app called PupilScreen.
PupilScreen uses smartphone technology and machine learning to detect traumatic brain injury. It is the first smartphone app capable of objectively detecting concussion and other traumatic brain injuries in the field: on the sidelines of a sports game, on a battlefield, in the home of an elderly person prone to falls, and in low-income countries without the resources for advanced testing equipment. PupilScreen can detect changes in a pupil’s response to light using a smartphone’s video camera and deep learning tools—a type of artificial intelligence—that can quantify changes imperceptible to the human eye.
Erik and his colleagues in Nursing are testing the app’s performance, which is being conducted at a level-one trauma center, Budhachinaraj Hospital, Phitsanulok Province, and located in north-central Thailand. They areevaluating the reliability and validity of the PupilScreen Smartphone App in individuals who have suffered a TBI and have been taken to the hospital emergency department (ED) or intensive care unit (ICU) the hospital. Their evaluations measure PupilScreen to the established gold standard, Pupillometer.
The team is testing in Thailand because two of their co-investigators are originally from Thailand and have an established relationship with the hospital’s medical director and clinical leadership, as well as have an academic appointment at neighboring Naresuan University.
The instruments used for screening patients with suspected TBI are either cost prohibitive in low-income countries or have poor clinical effectiveness, so the low cost of the PupilScreen app and its accessibility makes it a highly attractive device for screening patients with head injuries. If the app is shown to have equivalent reliability and validity to a Pupillometer, it may be poised to become the new standard device for screening TBI patients.
“This is a unique opportunity for a PhD student to be able to design, develop and implement a clinical trial,” said Erik. “All of my UW graduate and doctoral training has prepared me for this study. I achieved an MPH from the UW and in my PhD program I have studied global health, epidemiology, biostatistics, health economics, all of which have provided me with sophisticated skills that I am now able to put into real world practice.” Long term, he hopes to develop and evaluate new medical technologies that can be implemented cost-effectively and improve clinical outcomes, while offering clinicians worldwide more accurate tools for diagnosis and guiding care.
Erik received funding support through the Washington Research Foundation for this important project. His research will be showcased at the Dawgs in the Desert Alumni Event in Palm Springs on March 19. The team will present their research and highlight the collaboration between the School of Pharmacy and the School of Nursing.