Health Beat

Health Beat: VIPS: Time is brain

NEW YORK - On April 17, Eileen Sherrick's day started like any other, but it 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," Sherrick recalled.

Sherrick 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 said Sherrick 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, and every minute counts when you're treating a patient with stroke," said Dr. Christopher Kellner, a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai.

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," Kellner said.

The VIPS is a visor that emits radiofrequency waves. When it's placed on the head, it detects any differences between the two sides of the brain, indicating a major blockage. While Sherrick 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," Sherrick said.

Researchers said putting VIPS in the hands of first responders and on the heads of patients could soon save time and lives.

In a multi-center trial of the VIPS device, Kellner and his colleagues found it was 92 percent 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.

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