Hats off to Helmet of Hope

Patients could be prevented from severe disability thanks to the possibility of a new portable scanning helmet which can diagnose the extent of stroke damage in just 30 seconds. Bearing in mind every second counts during a stroke, this is simply amazing.

Fewer than half of the 152,000 people in Britain each year who suffer a stroke currently receive scans early enough for brain cell saving drugs to be administered or for surgery to be carried out, according to the findings of the Stroke Association.

Now scientists in the US have developed a PET, short for Position Emission Tomography, a scanning helmet that assesses the damage and can be used at the bedside or even in an ambulance for super fast diagnosis. They work by spotting which parts of the brain are correctly absorbing sugar which is energy, this means they are functioning correctly; therefore still alive so drugs can be administered before it is too late.

Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at West Virginia University, states for stroke, “Time is brain.” The more you wait, the more that penumbra area gasps and dies. If you can see there’s a bit of activity you might say let’s do an intervention. If the stroke occurred within a 2 to 4 hour window, it is often worth it. “The intervention is basically brain plumbing, they put something in to dissolve the plaque to restore the blood flow then those bits might perk up.”

Last year the Royal College of Physicians called for the rest of the country to follow the example of London where all patients, who were at risk, underwent scans within an hour. In October, the Stroke Association highlighted the fact that stroke patients were being put at risk due to the fact they were not being scanned in time. Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, pointed out that stroke is, after all, a medical emergency and without swift treatment, people are being put at risk of regaining their recovery. They are more likely to be left with serious disability as a result.

The device is also portable enough to be taken to sports’ stadiums and battlefields to check for brain injuries in athletes and soldiers.

It could be available for use two years from now according to some scientists, and I, for one, am hugely excited about its arrival

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