New Device Uses Submarine Technology to Diagnose Stroke Quickly

April 5, 2011

I am avoiding all references to ‘up periscope’ but this is a wonderful example of the inventiveness of engineers in adapting new technology to different applications.

A medical device using submarine technology has been developed by retired U.S. Navy sonar experts for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of strokes. This breakthrough was reported at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 36th Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago recently. Stroke is a leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the US as when a stroke occurs (when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks) this interrupts blood flow to an area of the brain. When this happens, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs and the faster it can be detected then the more positive is likely to be the outcome for the patient.

All it takes apparently is a laptop-based console and a headset for each type of stroke and brain trauma to be detected, identified and located in just one or two minutes . The device’s portability and speed of initial diagnosis means it can be used virtually anywhere and not just confined to hospital use. Initially both ambulance paramedics and the military have seen its advantages as it allows them to assess situations quickly and efficiently in order to provide patients with the best immediate treatment.

It has been developed from on decades of submarine warfare technology research and application by Kieran J. Murphy, M.D., FSIR, professor and vice chair, director of research and deputy chief of radiology at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The system is very simple in principle, yet it yields exceedingly rich data and the device’s basis in submarine technology means it works to measure a patient’s complex brain pulsations and to provide information on the type and location of an abnormality in many of the same ways as sonar works on submarines. Both use an array of sensors to measure movement and generate signals to be processed and analyzed, matching the signals to objects or conditions. 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.

Murphy said this technology could easily differentiate normal brain from life-threatening conditions, such as swelling and bleeding. “For example, when a physician suspects a stroke, time is of the essence, so doctors could use the system to determine treatment that needs to begin immediately and the device’s continuous monitoring capability — unique in neurodiagnostics — will allow immediate detection of changes in a patient’s condition.


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