Strokes kill 200 people per day in the United Kingdom, and leave many more disabled or living with the debilitating after effects, or the threat of a second or third potentially fatal recurrence.
Now a new type of medical diagnostic device has been developed that could provide much earlier diagnosis of a stroke than ever before, and could help to save lives by allowing the correct form of treatment to be administered sooner by doctors.
There are two types of stroke – ischemic and hemorrhagic. The ischemic stroke accounts for nearly three quarters of strokes, and occurs when a blood clot forms inside one of the blood vessels in the brain, cutting off the supply of blood and oxygen. The hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that bursts and leaks blood into the surrounding brain tissue causing brain damage.
Depending on the type of stroke that you may suffer, vitally different treatment needs to given, as quickly as possible, by the attending doctor or surgeon. In order to do this it is critical to diagnose the exact nature of the stroke. For instance, it would be no use whatsoever to prescribe an anti clotting medication if the patient was suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, as this could make the hemorrhaging even worse, and possibly kill the patient. Hemorrhagic strokes almost always require emergency surgery to repair the damaged blood vessel and remove the blood from the surrounding brain tissue.
The new device is a type of helmet that is placed over the head, and connected to a computer. It uses advanced ultrasound techniques, and newly developed software to overcome previous problems associated with passing ultrasonic sound waves through the head. It can produce a complete and detailed video image of the inside of the brain to assist doctors to make a rapid and accurate diagnosis of the patient’s condition.
Developed by the scientists and engineers at Duke University, North Carolina, the high tech ‘stroke helmet’ could provide emergency paramedics with the advanced diagnosis of the patient’s condition, allowing instant treatment to take place inside the ambulance, or by transmitting a graphical image of the brain to the nearest hospital, and allowing the correct medical team to be assembled, and ready to perform the correct treatment on the arrival of the ambulance.
This could save vital hours compared to the present system where a CT scan is performed at the hospital after the patient has been admitted. Where clot busting drugs are required, these are only effective if they are administered within a few hours of the suspected stroke, so the time factor may be critical in determining the recovery prospects of the patient.
The research team are working on a version of the helmet that will allow clinical trials to take place, although it may be some time yet before your local paramedics are able to offer the new device to their suspected stroke patients.