Submarines have used sonar technology in order to “see” and detect or target objects underwater. It seems that the same technology can also be used to help detect and target stroke in the human brain. Retired sonar experts from the US Navy are helping to develop portable device using the said technology in order to detect, monitor as well as diagnose stroke in humans.
This device is a headset equipped with 6 highly sensitive accelerometers. The sensors hone in on the brain to detect and measure skull pulsations. Different functions in the brain may give out their own unique vibrations that also cause the skull pulsations. The sensors in the headset try to measure these movements in order to detect irregular blood flow, in the same way that sonar was used in submarines to measure motion and generate signals that are collected, analyzed and then matched to objects giving off distinct vibrations.
According to Dr. Kieran J. Murphy, director of research and the deputy chief of radiology at the University of Toronto and University Health Network in Toronto, “As sonar sorts out whales and other objects from vessels, the device sorts out cerebral abnormalities such as aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations (AVMs, an abnormal connection between veins and arteries), ischemic strokes, and traumatic brain injury from normal variations in physiology.”
The said device was dev eloped by Jan Medical, a company based in Mountain view, California. Dr. Murphy then presented trial data on the use of the sonar-based device. “The system is very simple in principle, yet it yields exceedingly rich data,” Murphy added. The device makes use of sonar technology that can differentiate objects based on the distinct sound signals they give off.
A pilot study was conducted at Johns Hopkins Hospital using the prototype device which involved 40 stroke patients along with 30 normal controls. The prototype device was able to correctly identify stroke in 97.3 percent of cases and also correctly ruled out the same condition on 98.8 percent of the normal patients. The said device was also able to separate the stroke patients according to the specific stroke conditions that they were suffering from.
The device, according to its developers, may be ideal for use in emergency care situations, either in ambulances or even in military battlefields where other forms of brain scanning may be impossible. The headset is portable enough to be carried anywhere and can easily be connected to a laptop or computer. But before this device can introduced in the market, further studies as well as funding may still be needed.