Indian-American led research team finds portable MRI devices can provide life-saving information

Since 2013, Sheth has served as the founding chief of the Division of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology and chief of Clinical Research for the Department of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine.

By:Updated: Sep 28, 2021 12:34 PM
He said medical strokes are a major global challenge, and it is the focus of his work. (Representational image)

Indian-American professor Kevin Sheth and his team of researchers at the Yale University have found that a portable Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) device can help identify critical medical symptoms, particularly in stroke patients, that can provide life-saving information.

When patients exhibit stroke symptoms, doctors are left with no time to make a life or death decision, Sheth said, explaining the need for fast diagnosis in such complicated cases, adding that some cases may warrant blood thinners to ease a clot in the brain while some may require surgery in case of bleeding in the brain.

“This decision can be a game changer with the help of a portable MRI device that can help identify such intracranial hemorrhages; potentially life-saving information, particularly in areas or scenarios where access to sophisticated brain imaging scans are not readily available,” Sheth, professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine told PTI via e-mail.

For the study, the Yale team examined the efficacy of a device known as the ‘Portable Point-of-Care MRI system’, which can be wheeled down a hospital hallway and costs a fraction of the traditional MRI technologies.

Identified as co-corresponding author of the research, Sheth said: “There is no question this device can help save lives in resource-limited settings, such as rural hospitals or developing countries.”

“There is also now a path to see how it can help in modern settings. It is of critical importance to continue to collect more data across a range of stroke characteristics so that we can maximise the potential benefit of this approach,” he said.

Developed by Hyperfine Research Inc., a part of the Guilford, Connecticut-based medical technology incubator 4Catalyzer, the portable MRI can be used almost anywhere by medical technicians with even minimal training, the study said.

The researchers compared the results of portable MRI scans of 144 patients at Yale New Haven Hospital with results obtained from traditional neuroimaging scans.

Specifically, the portable MRI was used to scan brain injury patients at the bedside.

Neuroradiologists interpreting images acquired by Hyperfine Research’s portable MRI correctly identified 80 per cent of intracerebral hemorrhages.

The study is the first to validate the appearance and clinical implications of a brain hemorrhage using a portable MRI device.

Sheth and his team are also investigating the potential use of portable MRI technologies in helping diagnose and monitor head trauma and brain tumours, and to assess brain health in people with risk factors such as high blood pressure.

When asked what led him to this novel device, Sheth said, “I am a critical care and stroke neurologist who has been interested in ‘brain health’, stroke, cognitive decline and novel technologies/treatments for years. The focus of my research programme has been to identify and push forward new solutions to these important challenges.

“In that regard, being able to acquire MRI-based images (or other similar non-invasive measures of brain health/injury) in any setting has been a goal of the group for years. I was privileged to partner with world-class engineers, scientists, and a remarkable startup company in order to deploy the first-of-its-kind approach in the world,” he said.

In the US, the portable MRI device has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

He said medical strokes are a major global challenge, and it is the focus of his work.

“Our team was privileged to contribute some of the pivotal data that was used for registration (by the FDA) and it would personally be quite meaningful to me to do something that would benefit patients in India as well,” said Kevin, whose parents are from Gujarat.

The research team was led by Sheth and Mercy Mazurek, a clinical research analyst and first author, and co-corresponding author W Taylor Kimberly of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Researchers from Hyperfine also contributed to the paper. The research was primarily funded by the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and Hyperfine Research.

Sheth is the author of over 250 publications and the winner of the prestigious Robert Siekert Award from the American Heart Association (AHA), the Derek Denny Brown Award from the American Neurological Association and an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI).

Sheth’s studies have focused on the identification and translation of new therapies for patients with acute neurological injury such as stroke, brain hemorrhage, and trauma.

Sheth and his team look specifically at inflammation and swelling responses to acute central nervous system injury.

They are currently leading several national clinical trials on novel therapies that would affect this type of brain swelling.

Since 2013, Sheth has served as the founding chief of the Division of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology and chief of Clinical Research for the Department of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine.

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