CHI Memorial announces participation in “milestone” stroke study with novel ultrasound technology


The Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) Memorial Stroke and Neuroscience Center has announced its participation in the national research study, BUBL, stating that it was “instrumental” in developing the technology involved—a novel solution intended to better detect a specific cause of brain damage in some stroke patients.

The technology used is NovaSignal’s robotic transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound device, which, according to the study’s results, is three times as good as conventional testing in identifying cardiac abnormalities capable of producing blood clots that cause stroke.

“Understanding the underlying cause of a stroke allows us to deliver far more effective therapy to prevent another stroke,” said Thomas Devlin, medical director of CHI Memorial Stroke and Neuroscience Center (Chattanooga, USA) and co-director of CommonSpirit’s national neuroscience collaborative. “After seeing the positive impact delivered by TCD ultrasound in our practice, it became clear to both our brain and heart doctors that it must be incorporated into our practice as a new standard of care.”

The cardiac abnormality in question is a ‘right-to-left shunt’ (RLS)—a known risk factor for stroke that provides a conduit for a clot to travel to the brain. A hole in the heart (patent foramen ovale [PFO]) is the most common source of RLS and is present in more than 40% of cryptogenic stroke patients, a press release details.

The TCD ultrasound technology used in this study combines non-invasive ultrasound, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to assess cerebral haemodynamics in real time. In BUBL, it detected three times the number of PFOs when compared with conventional heart ultrasound (63.6% vs 20.2%, p<0.001). Of the PFOs detected, the technology discovered nearly three times the number of large shunts, or abnormal blood flow patterns, that could be corrected with surgery (27.8% vs 10.3%, p=0.002).

CHI Memorial is part of CommonSpirit Health. Clinical leaders will be working to train providers and implement this new approach to stroke diagnosis and care across CommonSpirit’s 138 hospitals in the USA.

“The results of our research programme represent a milestone in stroke medical care,” said Ruchir Shah, CHI Memorial stroke programme medical director. “We anticipate this new standard of medical care will save many lives by preventing future strokes.”

“Given that stroke is the number one cause of adult disability in the USA, the ability to more accurately diagnose the cause of stroke is of utmost importance,” said Janelle Reilly, market CEO at CHI Memorial. “We are excited that our research partnership has led to the development of a novel technology that will have a huge impact at reducing risk of secondary stroke, benefitting patients both within the CommonSpirit network and well beyond.”

Research from the BUBL study was presented earlier this year at the International Stroke Conference (ISC; 8–10 February, Dallas, USA).


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