SEATTLE, June 5, 2006 (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Meteorologists use it to track storms. Now doctors are using a similar version of Doppler radar to look at blood flow in the brain and help prevent stroke.
Airplanes are his hobby, but Wade Hilmo's been grounded from flying real ones since January. "I could feel kind of a tingling start at the back of my neck, and it came forward over the top of my head. Then as soon as it came over the top of my head, I got really dizzy," he says.
A ruptured aneurysm was bleeding in Hilmo's brain. "One of the things that strikes me is if I had been living 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, this probably would have been fatal."
But today's technology may have saved his life. After surgery, doctors used transcranial Doppler to see if wade was at risk of having a stroke, a common result of a ruptured aneurysm.
"Every day or twice a day we can go in and check the vessels with the ultrasound to see if they were going into spasm, which is the prelude to a possible stroke in these patients," David Newell, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, tells Ivanhoe.
It's a slight variation of the same Doppler technology meteorologists use to watch a storm develop as it happens. It uses ultrasound to measure blood flow in the brain in real time. The technology can also be used to help treat migraines, and, unlike other methods, it's non-invasive.
Dr. Newell says, "It's based on the same Doppler principal where sound waves are sent toward an object and then received waves that are reflected off that object are received by the equipment."
For Hilmo, it meant peace of mind during a scary time. "I knew that it was a very serious thing," he says. He's back on his feet now -- fully recovered -- and hopes to soon be back in the air.
Transcranial Doppler can be used on anyone at risk for stroke or migraine. Researchers are also studying the technology to help dissolve blood clots in the brain. Another goal -- to develop a transcranial Doppler the size of a PDA that patients can wear 24 hours a day to detect warning signs of a stroke.
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