X-ray. MRI. CT Scan. They’re all common procedures at medical centers everywhere.
But when it comes to the brain, and strokes, diagnosis can be a bit less scientific.
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“You’ll be asked to raise your hands, you’ll be asked speak, to see if there’s slurring, you’ll be asked if there’s tingling. And through that very subjective exam they’re going to decide if you’re having a stroke,” started Diane Bryant, CEO of West LA based NovaSignal.
They are making a device that’s part robot, part ultrasound and uses artificial intelligence and cloud computing to understand what’s happening with blood flow in the brain in real time.
“I think this is a fundamental shift in how brain health will be managed,” said Robert Hamilton, founder of NovaSignal and inventor of their technology.
“It is just using ultrasound, as you might think of general ultrasound, to look at how the blood flow is moving in different parts of the brain,” said Hamilton.
I visited NovaSignal’s offices, where I was scanned with the machine. First, you’re outfitted with two reflective stickers on each side of your temple. These help the robot know where it can and can’t go.
Next, you lay down and fit your head into a machine that’s best described as two oversized headphones. A tech makes sure everything is aligned and then the robots go to work, finding the exact point on your head where they can accurately scan for blood flow in the brain.
It’s a tiny, precise spot that would be much tougher for a trained human to home in on, never mind hold the signal. The entire process is non-invasive and doesn’t hurt.
Real time imagery shows blood flow velocity, tell-tale shapes and the presence of clots or air bubbles. These are factors that could lead to stroke, Parkinsons or Alzheimer’s. The data could also indicate brain trauma.
Not only can this information be used for preventative measures, but it can also be used in real time. For instance, a doctor performing a heart surgery can monitor the brain in real time for any issues negatively affecting blood flow to this critical organ.
The most important part of NovaSignal’s tech is that it can be done by anyone trained to administer it. Plus, results can be streamed in real time to a tablet, computer, or mobile phone anywhere the attending physician happens to be.
“It gives … doctors another tool in their toolbox to assess blood flow to help guide treatment quickly and more accurately,” concluded Hamilton.
NovaSignal tells me that their goal is to get this equipment into as many medical facilities as possible so it’s as ubiquitous as the X-Ray or MRI. The hardware isn’t even all that expensive by medical standards. It’s more about educating doctors that this sort of thing is even possible and available.
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