Speed up stroke diagnosis with this portable microwave helmet (Wired UK)


Strokefinder
Strokefinder


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Swedish researchers have developed a portable helmet that uses
microwaves to quickly determine whether a person has had a
stroke.

How well a patient recovers from a stroke is linked to how
quickly the stroke is diagnosed and treatment is started. During
the acute stage of a stroke around two million brain cells die
every minute due to lack of oxygen. The faster the oxygen supply
can be restored, the more brain (and therefore brain function) can
be restored. The financial cost of strokes is enormous: estimated
to be around 64 billion in Europe in 2010 alone. However, the human
cost is even more devastating, with five million people dying each
year and five million left permanently disabled.

There are two types of stroke: 80 percent of strokes are caused
by clots and 20 percent are due to bleeding on the brain. If you
are unlucky enough to have the clot-type (ischemic stroke), you
need to be given a drug that dissolves clots within a few hours –
up to 4.5 hours — in order to be effective. A haemorrhagic stroke
— where there is a bleed on the brain — requires different
treatment.

Usually strokes are diagnosed using a CT or MR scan, but because
of how busy hospitals are it’s often hard to get a diagnosis within
the necessary window. As a consequence, less than 10 percent of
patients get the anti-clotting treatment.

Strokefinder is
a helmet-like device developed by Medfield Diagnostics — a spinout
from Chalmers University of Technology — that uses a technique
called microwave tomography in order to diagnose strokes. The
helmet is covered in microwave antennas, and one antenna at a time
sends a signal that scatters in the brain matter while the other
antennas receive data. The received signals are then processed in
order to generate a picture of the brain. The device is made up of
much simpler components that traditional diagnostic techniques
making it a much more accessible technology.

The device has been subjected to testing with 45 patients. An
early prototype involved a modified bike helmet and was found to be
able to differentiate between the two types of stroke accurately
some of the time. The team has since refined the device, building a
custom-helmet that better adapts to different skulls, and it’s been
tested in a local hospital. The plan is to carry out a large-scale
study in order to improve the predictive power of the
algorithms.

Mikael Perrson from the Department of Signals and Systems at
Chalmers University of Technology told Wired.co.uk that the
technology was born out of studies from a decade ago where his team
was studying how electromagnetic fields from mobile phones were
penetrating through the brain. “We realised by looking at the
simulations how the details of the brain were attracting the wave
propagation,” he said, meaning that it was possible to detect
changes in the brain.

This led to the development of the first prototype, before Medfield
Diagnostics
was spun out of the university to develop the
second prototype. The third generation product — to be released in
autumn of 2014 — will be CE-marked, meaning that it can be sold on
the open market.

“It will be more like a pillow you rest your head on, without
all of the cables. Also it will have a wireless connection to an
iPad or external devices so it’s much more geared towards ambulance
use,” he explains.

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There are a number of different technologies being trialled for
portable stroke detection including ones that use near-infrared,
ultrasound and impedance methods. “From a fundamental point of view
microwave tech is the most promising because it readily penetrates
the skull bone so has some fundamental advantages which other
modalities have.”

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17 June 2014 | 1:38 pm – Source: wired.co.uk
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