Seconds count when strokes occur. Delays in treatment can lead to significant brain damage. Alistair McEwan, a doctor with University College London, has received a grant from Action Medical Research to alleviate those delays by developing a wireless diagnosis system for first aid crews.
Thanks to new clot-busting drugs, some paients treated within three hours of an attack can proceed to a full recovery. But bleeding can cause strokes as well. Doctors need to be sure of the cause before treatment, because administering the clot-busting drugs inappropriately can make the damage worse. MRIs and CT scans can determine the difference between clots and bleeding, yet that takes valuable time.
McEwan will use the £138,629 grant (about $253,000) to develop a portable scanner that can use electrical impedance tomography (EIT) to detect changes or abnormalitiesin the brain. "My plan is to design a device that can be simply placed on the patient's head to quickly improve an accurate assessment to allow treatment to start immediately," he said.
This headgear would be connected to a computer on board the ambulance using Bluetooth technology. Paramedics would read the scan and administer the appropriate drugs and treatment long before the patient gets to the hospital. Then, the paramedics could send the images to the hospital over the Internet so doctors there could be prepared for the patient when the ambulance arrives.
McEwan anticipates other applications to emerge, too. "Initially I am concentrating on the diagnosis of strokes and epileptic seizures," he said. " However, it is feasible that this technology could be used in the imaging of migraines, tumors, heart, lung, and liver conditions."
Action Medical Research