Cap that warns you're about to have stroke
04:08 GMT, 19 March 2013
04:08 GMT, 19 March 2013
A cap that monitors blood flow inside the head could predict if someone is about to have a stroke.
The high-tech cap can even sound an alarm if it detects a clot beginning to form on the brain, alerting the patient or their family members to call an ambulance.
It works by monitoring changes in blood flow through ten electrodes that sit on the patient’s scalp.
The device is being primarily aimed at patients who have already suffered a stroke and are therefore at increased risk of having another one
The computerised headset is programmed to recognise specific changes in blood flow, which indicate that the supply to the brain is being disrupted and a stroke is about to occur.
The device is being primarily aimed at patients who have already suffered a stroke and are therefore at increased risk of having another one.
One of the main uses is likely to be at night when patients are asleep and strokes can go unnoticed until the morning when they are found.
Strokes kill around 200 people every day in the UK.
In the 48 hours after one occurs, a patient has a 6 per cent chance of a second stroke, often while they are still in hospital.
In the 90 days after a stroke, there is a 12 per cent chance of an additional one.
It’s estimated to cost the NHS 2.3 billion a year to treat and look after the 100,000 people annually struck down by the life-threatening condition.
Only cancer and heart disease kill more people.
Around 85 per cent of victims are affected by ischemic strokes, where a clot travels to the brain and shuts off its blood supply.
The rest are called haemorrhagic strokes, where a blood vessel bursts in the brain, causing potentially fatal bleeding.
The cap, called the Neurokeeper, has been developed by Israeli scientists.
It works by carrying out an electro-encephalogram, or EEG.
This is a test that records the electrical activity of the brain through electrodes stuck to the head.
EEGs are used for a variety of purposes in medicine — such as measuring seizures in epilepsy — but usually involve cumbersome equipment that can only be used in a hospital.
The latest invention can be used at home and relies on the fact that electrical activity in the brain becomes much more varied when blood flow is disrupted, such as when a clot is forming, or a blood vessel has burst.
A tiny microchip inside the headset is programmed to identify when electrical activity starts to vary in this way, triggering the audible alarm before any symptoms even appear.
The 150 cap is still at a prototype stage.
However, trials are currently being planned and the firm behind the device, Neurokeeper Technologies, hopes to have it on the market within the next two years.
Dr Clare Walton, research communications officer at the Stroke Association, said that the Neurokeeper had the potential to transform the speedy treatment of strokes.
‘If it is shown to work in clinical trials, it has the potential to be used by patients that are known to be at high risk of stroke, so they can go to hospital immediately when the device detects a problem,’ she said.
‘It could also track when the stroke started, enabling doctors to determine whether the patient is within the time window to receive clot-busting treatments.’
Meanwhile, scientists believe that zapping nerves next to the kidneys may reduce the risk of stroke patients suffering a second episode.
Patients who have survived a stroke are having nerves at specific sites around the kidney destroyed with a heated tube or catheter.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for recurrent stroke.
Nerves around the kidneys are thought to be crucial for controlling blood pressure, by regulating the amount of salt in the blood stream.
The trial at Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark follows animal studies that suggest this treatment reduces salt levels in the blood stream, which reduces blood pressure and lowers stroke risk.