Scientists at Stony Brook University in New York have developed a hand-held scanner that uses terahertz time-domain spectroscopy and neural network data analysis to non-invasively assess the severity of skin burns. At present, it is difficult to visually assess the depth of a burn injury, which could negatively influence treatment outcomes. The device probes the burn injury with pulses of terahertz radiation. The terahertz reflectivity of the skin is altered by burn injuries, allowing a neural network to assess the signal and estimate the burn depth. The technology could allow more precise assessments of burn injuries and assist in treatment planning.
Burns are not just incredibly painful, but they can be difficult to treat, depending on their severity. Accurately assessing the severity and depth of a burn is important in choosing the correct therapeutic approach, but this is not as easy as one might think.
“It is important for healthcare professionals to accurately assess the depth of a burn to provide the most appropriate treatment,” said M. Hassan Arbab, a researcher involved in the study. “However, current methods of burn depth evaluation, which rely on visual and tactile examination, have been shown to be unreliable, with accuracy rates hovering around 60-75%. Our new approach could potentially improve the accuracy of burn severity assessments and aid in treatment planning.”
The technology is based on irradiating the burn with terahertz radiation, whereby physical changes in the burnt tissue alter the reflected signal. This is interpreted by a neural network that the researchers trained by correlating tissue biopsies, which indicate burn depth, with terahertz data. Previous iterations of such technology proved to be too bulky, inconvenient, and expensive for routine use in this context.
“To address these challenges, we developed the portable handheld spectral reflection (PHASR) scanner, a user-friendly device for fast hyperspectral imaging of in vivo burn injuries using THz-TDS,” said Arbab. “This handheld device uses a dual-fiber-femtosecond laser with a center wavelength of 1560 nm and terahertz photoconductive antennas in a telecentric imaging configuration for the rapid imaging of a 37 x 27 mm2 field of view in just a few seconds.”
The researchers hope that the device will make a difference for patients who experience these difficult injuries and the doctors who treat them. “In 2018, approximately 416,000 patients were treated for burn injuries in emergency departments in the United States alone,” said Arbab. “Our research has the potential to significantly improve burn healing outcomes by guiding surgical treatment plans, which could have a major impact on reducing the length of hospital stays and number of surgical procedures for skin grafting while also improving rehabilitation after injury.”
Study in journal Biomedical Optics Express: Triage of in vivo burn injuries and prediction of wound healing outcome using neural networks and modeling of the terahertz permittivity based on the double Debye dielectric parameters
Via: Optica Publishing