Vinnova and the Swedish Trade Council will support the “Strokefinder” project through ”International Testbeds UK 2012”. What does this mean?
– It means that we will be given the opportunity to install the “Strokefinder” technology in leading hospitals in Great Britain and Ireland. The possibility to test our system on patients, in collaboration with leading British and Irish specialists in stroke, is not only very exciting but it will also accelerate research and development.
Is this a step towards international breakthrough of the technology?
– Yes, because this gives us the opportunity to introduce our technology to doctors and key opinion leaders of international standing.
– Mikael and I have worked together to develop the underlying microwave technology over several years. Nevertheless we need to demonstrate the efficacy of the technology in several large multi-site clinical trials if it is to gain broad international acceptance and adoption. Ultimately our goal is to have the technology become standard equipment in hospitals and ambulances worldwide. We believe that this will lead to a major paradigm shift in the acute care of stroke patients.
The “Strokefinder” technology provides a very fast diagnosis compared to today’s methods. What does this mean for people who suffer a stroke?
– Faster diagnosis and treatment means greatly improved chances of surviving a stroke and a greatly reduced risk of severe brain damage.
– Each year around 30000 people in Sweden suffer a stroke. In about 25000 of these cases the stroke is the result of a blood clot, and in the remaining cases bleeding causes it. The clot cases can be successfully treated using a clot-dissolving drug, provided it is given within 4,5 hours of the stroke. Today less than 2000 of these clot cases are diagnosed in time. If ambulances were equipped with the “Strokefinder” technology then diagnosis and treatment could occur much earlier, ensuring that many more in this group received timely treatment.
– For the remaining 5000 cases with a bleeding-induced stroke, clot-dissolving drugs cannot be used because they will make the condition worse. Such cases are treated in other ways, but again, timely diagnosis is key.
This invention stems from several years of research at Chalmers. Can you tell me about how the technology was conceived and developed?
– In the late 1990’s Mikael was engaged in research investigating whether electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones has any harmful health effects on humans. This is a very difficult question and indeed remains the subject of on-going research worldwide. Mikael realised that the pattern of propagation of an electromagnetic wave through a tissue is different for different types of tissue. This led him to wonder whether this difference in propagation could be exploited to perform medical diagnostics.
– In 2001 I started working with him to explore and develop this idea. Our research focused on developing algorithms and microwave measurement systems. We subsequently turned our attention to stroke diagnosis, after speaking with several doctors who told us that today’s slow diagnosis of stroke patients is a huge problem. Today, further research and development of this technology continues, in collaboration with several partners at Chalmers, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and at Medfield Diagnostics AB.
Text and photo: Gunilla Brocker
Caption: Andreas Fhager currently works with development of the "stroke helmet".