A new smart helmet can determine stroke severity and type

One of the biggest keys to recovery for stroke victims is early and quick treatment. If the blood clot that caused the stroke can be treated quickly enough, it's possible to restore full functionality to the patient in many instances. The goal is to diagnose and treat patients within the first hour of having a stroke to give them the best chance of recovering.

To help facilitate rapid diagnosis of the position, size, and type of stroke, researchers have created a new smart helmet that is portable and designed specifically to diagnose strokes. The designers of the portable smart helmet envision it being used in an ambulance while en route to the hospital in an effort to allow quicker treatment and better recovery outcomes. Typically, stroke patients aren't diagnosed until they arrive at the hospital.

Unlike other smart helmet designs that rely on ultrasound for brain imaging and stroke detection, the new helmet relies on electromagnetic waves, which easily penetrate the skull. The helmet also leverages signal processing giving it the ability to detect and diagnose stroke. Electromagnetic measurements are particularly well-suited to stroke diagnosis because they can detect both types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic.

The ability to detect both types of strokes allows the helmet not only to diagnose that a stroke has occurred but to tell providers what type of stroke the patient has suffered. This is critical because the two types of strokes require different types of treatment. A prototype helmet was tested using simulations that investigated various stroke positions and dimensions ranging from 1 to 4 centimeters inside the brain.

Researchers say by leveraging their signal processing approach, the accuracy of their diagnostic method is higher than 80 percent. That showed it was possible to utilize the electromagnetic approach to create accurate images of the stroke inside the brain and gather quantitive information to determine the type of stroke. Project researchers hope to test the device in clinical trials soon.