Portable brain scanner used to identify stroke

Tuesday, 12 November, 2019

Portable brain scanner used to identify stroke

The ability to perform a brain scan on stroke patients at almost any location could soon become a reality, thanks to the development of a portable, lightweight clinical prototype by EMVision Medical Devices and The University of Queensland.

The portable brain scanner technology, which has been close to a decade in development, is the size of an ultrasound unit and easy to use. It has the potential to enable clinicians to make critical decisions earlier — shortening time to treatment, classifying stroke subtypes and improving patient outcomes as a result.

Currently, there is no point-of-care imaging solution allowing the assessment and monitoring of stroke patients without having to transport them to fixed CT or MRI scanners. Not all patients have access to these imaging devices, nor are they accessible at rural medical clinics. Furthermore, they cannot be carried by first response paramedic teams or moved around the hospital wards.

“One of the most powerful global trends in healthcare accessibility and delivery is the rise of point-of-care imaging,” said EMVision CEO Dr Ron Weinberger. “Point-of-care ultrasound, as an example, has revolutionised the practice of medicine, influencing how care is provided in nearly every medical and surgical specialty. Whilst ultrasound is great for a wide range of applications, it is very poor for use in stroke care due to its inability to image the brain. We aim to fill this void for stroke.”

To create quality images of the brain, a lightweight headset containing an antenna array transmits safe low-power electromagnetic signals into the brain, relying on the differing electrical properties and contrast of healthy and unhealthy tissue. These interactions are then picked up by proprietary AI software, which reconstructs and displays an image on the screen to guide diagnosis.

A commercial generation of EMVision’s brain scanner will now be developed to scan stroke patients at their bedside while recovering, providing the capability for hospitals to monitor for recurrent strokes and track response to treatments. A future handheld version is also expected to provide rapid stroke decision support and triage in ambulances. This could allow patients to be identified and transported directly to specialist hospitals for earlier intervention or even provide the opportunity to treat patients pre-hospital.

“These two applications present EMVision with a significant commercial opportunity to provide clinicians and paramedics with valuable information to make critical decisions and intervene earlier,” Dr Weinberger said. “We expect our devices to be a valuable adjunct to today’s traditional imaging technologies used in stroke care, CT and MRI — both of which produce exquisite images but cannot be used at the point of the care.”

EMVision is now preparing the device for delivery to Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, where its clinical trial will be conducted later this year. The trial will collect data from patients with diagnosed ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke, with confirmatory CT or MRI images.

“We are thrilled to complete our first clinical unit build and to deliver it to the Princess Alexandra Hospital shortly,” Dr Weinberger said. “The device represents a breakthrough opportunity for imaging the brain, at the point of care, in a manner otherwise not possible today. Our ICU and neurology clinical collaborators are excited to start the trial very soon.”

Image caption: Device co-inventor Dr Konstanty Bialkowski (left) and EMVision CEO Dr Ron Weinberger (right) stand alongside the EMVision clinical unit.

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