Stroke detecting helmet trialled in the Hunter

Image: University of Newcastle

Image: University of Newcastle

The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) is trialling a new Stroke Finder helmet that aims to detect strokes sooner.

With an acute stroke happening every 10 minutes in Australia, and the helmet can perform multiple brain measurements in 60 seconds using microwave technology.

It is compact and portable so that it can be quickly deployed in ambulances or emergency departments.

The idea for the Stroke Finder came from Professor Mikael Persson, a biomedical engineering specialist from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, after studying whether using mobile phones affected the brain.

The HMRI Sydney Foundation received funding for the project, including a donation from Dr Jerry Schwartz.

Schwartz said he was aware of the two causes of a stroke and its physical and financial burden.

“The treatment of each cause is opposite – one is to thin the blood, the other is to stop the bleeding and maybe evacuate the blood – but both require immediate treatment for best results,” he said.

“This simple device, which can be placed into an ambulance, will differentiate the cause while the patient is being taken to hospital.”

Over the next twelve months, stroke researchers at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital will trial two of the devices from Swedish company Medfield Diagnostics.

A team gathered by HMRI director Professor Michael Nilsson and Hunter New England Health stroke leader Professor Chris Levi, will evaluate the Stroke Finder’s detection system and compare its accuracy against standard CT scanners.


“This technology, though still in research phase, allows us to image the brain very early, hopefully within what’s called the ‘golden hour’ after a stroke occurs, which could substantially improve outcomes,” Levi said.

The stroke patient’s head goes onto the Stroke Finder’s cushion-sized base and is scanned by antenna pads that emit low energy microwaves. The pulses ‘scatter’ in the brain matter and bleeding patterns are identified through an image-generating system.

The Stoke Finder is also wireless, battery powered and operates from a tablet.

Persson said the Hunter region was the first place outside of Sweden to trial the technology.

“Before we can finalise the algorithm we need a lot of raw clinical data – that’s why it is so important to have these international multicentre partnerships where results are pooled,” he said.

Nilsson highlighted the device’s accuracy.

“The accuracy has been very good so far and if the platform can reach the level of CT scanning when it comes to diagnostic safety, the future looks promising,” he said.

The next part of the study will involve NSW Ambulance and will exploring the potential for stroke therapies to be used by paramedics via telehealth connection, before they reach the hospital.