LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center researchers are testing a computer-driven system aimed at predicting rising intracranial pressure in patients with traumatic brain injuries, it was announced today.

Department of Neurosurgery researchers are working with IBM and Excel Medical Electronics to test an alarm using software that analyzes vital signs from a bedside monitor to detect subtle changes in pulse, blood and intracranial pressure, heart activity, and respiration, signaling that dangerous high-risk increases in brain pressure are on the way, according to the partners.

Typically, nurses are only alert to a possible problem when brain pressure crosses a threshold, and doctors need to quickly decide if the alarm is false, if the condition is life-threatening, or if immediate action is needed to prevent brain damage or death.

A $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is paying for the research.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1.7 million people nationwide suffer traumatic brain injuries every year. Of those, about 52,000 die, 275,000 are hospitalized, and 1.36 million are treated in an emergency room.