Brain radar hunts for strokes

A Swedish medical technology company has demonstrated and manufactured a radar system for human brains. 

The principle behind the Strokefinder device is that microwaves pick up on the dielectric properties of a material. Microwave tomography therefore makes it possible to distinguish between different materials which have similar density, such as brain cells and a blot clot, or a breast cancer tumour and the surrounding tissue.

“It is a kind of near-field radar,” said Dahlqvist, speaking at the National Instruments NIWeek conference in Austin, Texas. “It won't get the same resolution as a CTI scanner, for example, but it is a lot more portable, and in some cases it can give better contrast.”

The big challenge in microwave tomography is signal processing: the subject is surrounded with an arrangement of antennae, one of these sends a signal and the others pick up the scattered reflections, and these must then be processed to generate a picture.

What's made this practical is NI's PXI PC-based test and measurement platform and its compact new vector network analyser, said Dahlqvist. He said these have enabled his company to shrink Strokefinder to a single box the size of a small suitcase and sell it as a research tool, but added that it will shrink still further – the aim is a device that can easily be carried in an ambulance.

He said that the company recently completed its first clinical trial with promising results, and is now planning the next trial stages.

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