Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have been exploring the possibility that the Strokefinder helmet can be used for a quick diagnosis for bleeding in the brain resulting from traumatic brain injury.
TBIs are extremely common injuries in Canada, and the severe ones are often characterized by bleeding in the brain – intracranial bleeding. The most common cause of these severe concussions is slip and fall accidents, car accidents, and work place accidents. TBI with bleeding almost always requires treatment where the skull is opened to relieve pressure and the blood clot. The window for successful treatment of this kind of TBI is quite small, and failure to treat the injury appropriately result in serious brain damage or death.
The general protocol is to use a CT scan to determine whether intracranial bleeding is present. The CT scanners can be located far from the injured patient and have a significant cost attached to them. Survival rates of patients with untreated intracranial bleeding drops from 70 to 10% if the bleed is not removed within 4 hours, so time is of the essence.
The Swedish researchers decided to test an ‘off label’ use of a stroke diagnostic tool called Strokfinder. It’s a tool that is used to diagnose whether s stroke is ischemic (clots blocking blood flow) or hemorrhagic (bleeding). The helmet has a number of microwave antennas that fire small amounts of radiation through the brain. The pattern and speed of transmission is used to determine the consistency of the tissues, and thereby determine whether there is bleeding present.
In case of a stroke the doctors can begin the appropriate treatment. In the case of TBI the doctors can immediately begin the transfer of the accident victim to the neurological centre, or neurological treatment team. The technique has only been applied so far in limited cases but the researchers are hopeful that based on the results of the testing, the use of Strokefinder in more urgent cases will work. If trials are successful we may see Strokefinder at sports events and even on battlefields.
Currently the device is priced around $100K, although the price will drop with greater production. The price of the Strokefinder is significantly less than a CT scanner and the unit is highly portable.