“Time is brain” is a phrase used by neurologists that refers to what happens in the critical minutes and hours after someone suffers a stroke. With each passing minute, a stroke victim loses, on average, 1.9 million neurons, 13.8 billion synapses and 7.5 miles of myelinated fiber. After just one hour, the loss of neurons is equivalent to nearly four years of normal aging.
Such rapid deterioration of the brain following a stroke is why stroke treatment is considered the most time-critical in all of medicine. Literally every minute counts. Now, a new technology from Viz.ai – first employed locally at Baptist Health South Florida – is helping save precious minutes and ensure that every member of the stroke victim’s care team is on the same page with diagnosis and treatment.
The technology, approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), combines sophisticated imaging software and deep learning algorithms with mobile communication tools to get the right patient to the right doctor at the right time.
Normally, a patient who suffers a severe stroke is rushed to the nearest hospital, even if it isn’t equipped to treat strokes. There, a brain scan and other tests are performed to confirm the type and severity of the stroke and how much of the brain has already suffered damage. Scans must be reviewed by a neuro-radiologist, who consults with a neurologist for treatment recommendations. Even at a Comprehensive Stroke Center like Baptist Hospital, the process can take up to 20 minutes. A stroke victim at a small rural hospital lacking the facilities or expertise to treat stroke might languish for hours while tests are sent to a neurologist at another hospital for review.
Viz.ai’s technology, however, instantly cross-references the patient’s brain scan against a database of scans from other stroke victims. Within minutes, it makes the brain scan images available to all members of the stroke care team and automatically detects key image findings such as the presence of a blocked large artery in the brain, which would indicate a special type of treatment. This critical information is shared simultaneously with the neuro-radiologist, neurologist and other members of the stroke care team.
“Time is our biggest enemy with strokes and this technology enables us to cut diagnosis time by as much as half, which translates to better outcomes for the patient,” says Felipe De Los Rios, M.D., neurologist and medical director, stroke program at Miami Neuroscience Institute, part of Baptist Health. “By providing robust image views in 3D and at different angles, it gives us a better understanding of where the blockage is and how much surrounding tissue has been damaged.”
Stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain that deprives brain tissue of oxygen. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and the leading cause of long-term disability. On average, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds; and someone dies from a stroke every three to four minutes. Thousands of stroke victims each year are disabled because care wasn’t provided quickly enough.
According to Dr. De Los Rios, the technology developed by Viz.ai is now being employed in Miami-Dade County at four Baptist Health hospitals: South Miami Hospital, Baptist Hospital, West Kendall Baptist Hospital and Homestead Hospital. It is also available in Palm Beach County at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, which is part of Baptist Health.