A CT brain scanner in an aircraft or ambulance?

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Saving lives after stroke with a small aircraft or ambulance-mounted CT brain scanner

Adelaide company Micro-X (MX1) has started developing a small CT brain scanner that can be fitted in ambulances and emergency aircraft. If successful, the device will allow paramedics and retrieval teams to diagnose and then start treating stroke patients in the golden hour – the first hour after a stroke.

Today Micro-X signed a Project Agreement that will unlock $8 million of funding from a     $40 million grant awarded to the Australian Stroke Alliance under the Australian Government’s Frontier Health and Medical Research initiative. The funding will contribute to the development of the scanner for patient imaging trials in 2023.

This year, stroke will affect more than 15 million people worldwide – 5 million will die and another 5 million will be permanently disabled. In Australia, there are about 38,000 stroke events annually, or more than 100 a day.

“Your best chance of surviving a stroke lies in the first hour after the attack – the so-called “Golden Hour,” Professor Stephen Davis, AO, from the Australian Stroke Alliance, said.

“Detecting and starting treatment within that timeframe gives patients a much better chance of surviving and recovering with limited brain damage,” he said.

“This scanner would allow us to determine the type of stroke in minutes and start treatment on the way to hospital,” Graeme Rayson, Operations Manager, SA Ambulance Service, said.

While some health services have Mobile Stroke Units (MSUs) – fully-equipped, custom-built specialist vehicles that accommodate a built-in, conventional CT scanner and specialist acute stroke personnel – these cost more than $1 million each and require reinforcement to support the weight of the CT scanner.

Micro-X founder Peter Rowland, Senator Simon Birmingham with the new device fitted into an RDFS aircraft.

These have delivered good patient outcomes, but the conventional CT technology’s size, weight, cost and workflow mean MSUs will always be relatively rare, particularly in rural and regional communities.

Micro-X’s technology by contrast, has the potential to turn every ambulance into a stroke capable ambulance.

“We have invented an electronic X-ray tube” said Peter Rowland, Managing Director of Micro-X. “It’s already in use in mobile X-ray units in hospital emergency and ICU rooms. We will create a small arc using a number of these patented X-ray tubes, and a curved detector developed in partnership with Fujifilm, to create a compact and robust CT scanner with no moving parts that could be installed in every ambulance” he said. 

The project is made possible thanks to Micro-X’s carbon nanotube (CNT) emitter technology.

Micro-X has successfully completed initial imaging studies with the Melbourne Brain Centre.

The second stage of the collaboration will continue the development and refinement of the device with the intention of conducting patient imaging trials in approximately three years.

Micro-X will build on established relationships with Fujifilm, the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, the MADA Monash University Health Collab team and the Melbourne Brain Centre at Royal Melbourne Hospital. Micro-X is also sending an employee to the Johns Hopkins University as a PhD candidate from Flinders University for three years.

We are excited to be at the forefront in developing technology which has the potential to radically transform health care for all Australians,” Rowland said.

This unique collaboration puts Australia and the Australian Stroke Alliance at the forefront of global best practice in stroke care which may be adopted as the new standard for stroke diagnosis and management,” Professor Stephen Davis, AO, from the Australian Stroke Alliance, said.

Images of the Micro-X CT brain scanner

Background information

About the Australian Stroke Alliance


The Australian Stroke Alliance is overseeing a transformative research program having won a $40 million grant through the Federal Frontier Health and Medical Research initiative. 

Researchers from around the nation are working towards an equitable approach to the treatment of urgent, pre-hospital stroke care, particularly for Indigenous and rural and remote Australians. The program brings together 37 national agencies committed to transforming prehospital stroke care. Over five years, the team will address an unmet clinical need to deliver urgent stroke care for all. As part of this, the program will fund world-first disruptive technologies to radically transform access to early prehospital treatments.

About stroke

Stroke is the second most common cause of death globally and a leading cause of disability. In Australia, there are about 38,000 stroke events annually, or more than 100 a day, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The Stroke Foundation’s data from Deloitte Access Economics tells us that 27,428 Australians will experience their first stroke in a 12-month period. Unfortunately, many survivors of a first stroke will have another, especially if prevention medication is not taken and recommended lifestyle changes are not maintained.

There are an estimated 445,000 stroke survivors living in Australia, the majority with a disability that impacts their everyday life. Today, someone in Australia suffers a new stroke every 19 minutes, according to the Stroke Foundation. By 2050 this will almost double to every 10 minutes, and new data tells us there will be 819,900 Australian stroke survivors.

About Micro-X


Micro-X Limited (the Company) is an ASX listed hi-tech company developing and commercializing a range of innovative products for global health and security markets, based on proprietary cold cathode, carbon nanotube (CNT) emitter technology.  The electronic control of emitters with this technology enables x-ray products with significant reduction in size, weight, and power requirements, enabling greater mobility and ease of use in existing x-ray markets and a range of new and unique security and defense applications.  Micro-X has a fully vertically integrated design and production facility in Adelaide, Australia.  A growing technical and commercial team based in Seattle is rapidly expanding Micro-X’s US business.

Micro-X’s product portfolio is built in four, high margin, product lines in health and security. The first commercial mobile digital radiology products are currently sold for diagnostic imaging in global healthcare, military, and veterinary applications.  An X-ray Camera for security imaging of Improvised Explosive Devices is in advanced development.  The US Department of Homeland Security has selected Micro-X to design a next-generation Airport Checkpoint Portal with self-service x-ray.  A miniature brain CT imager for pre-hospital stroke diagnosis in ambulances, is being developed with funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.