Thursday, March 8, 2012

Head patch watches over stroke patients’ blood flow in brains

Stroke is one of the silent killers just like heart attacks, and the amount of damage it does to the body varies, with many of those who suffered from a stroke before having to live with limited movement as well as slurred speech. Not only that, statistics show that nearly 33% of stroke patients experience another stroke – all the while when they are still stuck in the hospital. Nurses assigned to such patients will have to go the extra mile then to keep a close eye on them, and also to help arrange for such patients to undergo additional tests if they fall under the category of being a high risk case of getting another stroke.
It is rather unfortunate that such tests can prove to be invasive, and in some cases are even potentially harmful to the patient. Good thing advancements in modern medical technology brings good news – there is a spanking new device that is being developed at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, which might eventually be able to monitor the potential advent of another stroke through the simple act of shining light onto a patient’s forehead.

This device is known as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), where it will be attached to the brow skin just like a sticker. Following that, it measures blood oxygen levels in the brain, and through the emission of near-infrared light that penetrates the scalp, which will in turn proceed about 2.5 centimeters (0.98 inches) into the underlying brain tissue, makes it work similar in nature to the pulse oximeter that is widely used today, although the latter will clamp onto one’s finger.
Standard operating procedures in testing for a stroke will require a CT perfusion scan to be performed, where this will measure blood flow and oxygenation via the use of an introduced contrast medium, and in some cases might actually result in airway or kidney damage. Should multiple scans be required, such a process will also expose the patient to excessive radiation, and that has a risk of cancer as well. Hopefully the new device can be miniaturized eventually for everyday use, including assessing the extent of brain injuries.