ICFO researchers try out a stroke device at the Hospital de Sant Pau

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Real-time bedside brain monitoring

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Real-time bedside brain monitoring

A non-invasive bedside optical device has been used for the first time at the Hospital de la Santa Creu and Sant Pau in Barcelona to monitor the treatment of patients with acute ischaemic stroke in real time. The mechanism, developed by ICFO researchers led by ICREA professor Turgut Durduran, has the potential to become a future tool for non-invasive medical monitoring.

Mar 23, 2018

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults and the second cause of mortality in the world, causing more than 400,000 deaths each year in Europe. Often known as a “brain attack”, a stroke occurs when blood flow to a specific area of the brain is cut off by a clot obstructing the blood vessel or because the vessel bursts. When a stroke occurs, blood flow decreases drastically and brain cells in the damaged areas are deprived of the oxygen and glucose they need to survive.

The new device was developed by researchers from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), a research centre affiliated to the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), under the leadership of ICREA professor Turgut Durduran. The aim is to provide physicians with real-time monitoring of strokes and to help them determine immediately whether the treatment applied to the patient has been effective. The device was created in collaboration with the Stroke Unit of the Hospital de Sant Pau, led by Dr Raquel Delgado-Mederos. The project is supported by the “La Caixa” Foundation under the LlumMedBcn initiative, the Cellex Foundation and the Spanish Ministry of Health.

Tests with five patients
The device emits infrared light, which enters the patient’s cranium and reaches the outermost layers of the brain. As the light travels through the cranium, it interacts with the brain tissue and disperses in different ways according to the composition of the tissue. The information is then recovered by means of a detector located a few inches from the emitter of the light source, and the parameters of the blood flow and the blood oxygen levels are determined.

The team of the stroke unit at the Hospital de Sant Pau tested the optical monitoring system in five patients admitted to the emergency room with acute ischaemic stroke who were treated with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug that dissolves the clot to improve blood flow. The device was used while the treatment was administered and later to control the blood flow and the oxygen levels. The increase in blood flow detected with the new system was correlated with the opening of the blocked vessel also observed in the transcranial Doppler image.

This is the first time that this non-invasive mechanism has been used in the hospital’s emergency room and tested on a group of stroke patients.

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