Brain Helmet Could Help Save Lives Of Stroke Victims

Photo: Duke UniveristyPhoto: Duke UniveristyDuke University bioengineers have created the first "brain helmet" capable of detecting a stroke in a matter of minutes, compared to the four hours it takes to detect from a traditional MRI or CT study. Particularly for the most common types of strokes, the brain helmet's rapid diagnosis could make the difference between recovery and disability, or even life and death.

The bioengineers, led by a graduate student at Duke, Brooks Lindsey, created the brain helmet using a 3-D ultrasound technology that had been developed as part of an ongoing project at Duke. The prototype helmet was made and fitted with ultrasound transducers to be positioned next to the temples on both sides of the head. When the brain helmet is operational, the transducers send the ultrasound images to a computer screen where 3-D color images of the blood vessels and the blood moving inside them can be seen. Of course, any obstructions to blood flow can also be seen.

The most common type of stroke is caused by a blood clot, an obstruction of blood flow in the brain. The approved treatment for this kind of stroke (or heart attack) is a clot-buster known as tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which ideally needs to be administered quickly. Before tPA is administered, however, doctors need to know if clotting is the cause of the stroke, and right now such determination may take hours.

Lindsay and fellow researchers forsee that the brain helmet could be used by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at the scene or in the ambulance en route to a hospital. The images could be sent to doctors at the hospital in real time, thus enabling diagnosis and treatment in a much shorter time frame.

RD Magazine; Duke University

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