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Hi-Tech Helmet Heads Off Stroke Damage

A helmet placed on the head of a stroke victim sends low-intensity microwaves through the brain to quickly determine whether a blockage or hemorrhage is taking place, making faster treatment possible. Wayt Gibbs reports

 

When a person suffers a stroke quick treatment is crucial. But there are two very different kinds of strokes: some result from blood clots that block circulation within the brain, others are caused by ruptured vessels that spill blood into surrounding tissue. The use of clot-busting drugs when a hemorrhage is happening can cause additional injury or death. So doctors lose precious time waiting for stroke victims to get MRIs or CAT scans before they start treatment.
 
But soon EMT’s might be able to quickly tell whether patients have a blockage or a bleed—by having them wear a high-tech helmet.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden developed the prototype helmet and tested it on 45 stroke patients.

The gadget covers the head with a patchwork of antennas. As each antenna beams low-intensity microwaves through the head in sequence, the other antennas detect how the waves scatter. Any pooling blood from a hemorrhage causes deflections easily spotted on an attached computer. The research is in the IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. [Mikael Perrson et al, Microwave-based stroke diagnosis making global pre-hospital thrombolytic treatment possible]

Trials using mobile stroke helmets in ambulances are scheduled to start in the fall. As with proper treatment, the sooner the better.
 
—Wayt Gibbs
 
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
 

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