NEW YORK CITY – Researchers are testing a new wearable device that can recognize when you're having a serious stroke.
On April 17th, Eileen Sherrick's day started like any other, but ended in an ambulance racing to the hospital. The last thing she remembers is being on the phone with her brother, Dennis.
"And he said to me, 'Eileen, you're not talking right.' I couldn't really speak. I went 'bah,' and with that I fell right down on the ground."
Eileen had a major stroke. A clot was blocking an artery to her brain.
Surgeons performed a thrombectomy using a catheter to quickly remove the clot.
Doctors say Eileen was lucky, not every hospital has that expertise.
"They could lose a few hours by going to a center that doesn't have that capability and time is brain", said cerebrovascular surgeon Dr. Christopher Kellner. "And every minute counts when you're treating a patient with stroke."
WARNING SIGNS: One of the biggest ways to remember how to spot signs of a stroke is the word FAST. It stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911.
- Look for face drooping. Does one side of the face droop or does the person feel numbness? Ask the person to smile and see if it is lopsided or uneven.
- Check for arm weakness or numbness; ask the person to raise both of their arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Finally look for speech difficulty. Is their speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or are you having trouble understanding them? Try and ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like 'the grass is green' or 'the sky is blue.' Is the person able to correctly repeat whatever you are asking them to say?
- Overall if you see any of these signs, the final step is to call 911.
Dr. Kellner is testing a device that can quickly tell if a patient is having a major stroke. It's called Volumetric Integral Phase-shift Spectroscopy or VIPS.
"The VIPS device is like an EKG for the brain, except it's much more accurate than an EKG is," said Dr. Kellner.
The VIPS is a visor that emits radio-frequency waves.
When it's placed on the head, it detects any differences between the two sides of the brain, indicating a major blockage. While Eileen has made an almost complete recovery, she knows other stroke patients are not always as fortunate.
"It can come on you in the slightest moment."
Researchers say putting VIPS in the hands of first responders, and on the heads of patients, could soon save time and lives.
In a trial of the VIPS device at different locations, Dr. Kellner and his colleagues found it was 92% effective in identifying large strokes from small strokes. Patients having small strokes would not need the same, immediate surgery to restore blood flow, and could benefit from other treatments, like medication.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.