Brain helmet could help potential stroke victims

March 3, 2009 5:30:50 PM PST
Researchers at Duke are working on a brain helmet that could help emergency responders quickly detect a stroke in patients.Doctors only have a few hours to treat patients, so speed is key.

You could say Brooks Lindsey is the brain behind the creation of the helmet.

"If we do a good enough side with the engineering side of it, maybe the clinicians will turn to it," said Lindsey, Duke University graduate student.

He is a biomedical engineering student who helped develop the helmet.

Using ultrasound, it provides real-time 3D images of blood vessels. One day the helmet could help perform quick brain scans of potential stroke victims, speeding up detection and treatment that is critical during a stroke.

"Currently, the only FDA approved treatment for a stroke is the use of a clot busting drug, TAPA, and that drug has to be given within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms," Lindsey explained. "We've seen through our research the mean time to get a CT scan is at about four hours, which is already outside of that window, so we think that these types of scans could be done in 15 to 30 minutes."

Researchers say the hope is to put stroke helmets in ambulances and emergency vehicles to help asses patients en route to the hospital.

"[It] could be taken along in an ambulance or perhaps sitting in the corner of an emergency room," Lindsey said. "And, so what can happen then is when a patient first comes into the emergency room, if the clinicians suspect a stroke, they could then position the helmet on them and acquire scans [and] X-ray images to give them views if there's an obstruction or narrowing of the artery."

That quick imaging can help make the difference between death and disability from a stroke, which is why Lindsey is hard at work perfecting his creation.


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