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Ultrasonographic monitoring and early diagnosis of stroke

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Microbubbles for ultrasound interpretation

Ultrasound scanning is an effective means of detecting symptoms associated with strokes. Researchers have developed a new contrast agent to improve and extend diagnoses from the scanning process.

Health

Ultrasound scanning (US) is an effective means of obtaining information about blood perfusion, or nutritive flow, and perfusion defects within tissue. This method is non-invasive and can give an early diagnosis and a chance for effective monitoring and consequent recovery. The UMEDS project aimed to develop enhanced techniques of US in order to achieve these goals. Project partners at Bracco Research S.A. specifically researched the refinement of ultrasound contrast agents. Ultrasound images can be improved by using a contrast agent. To date, blood pool agents utilised have only given information about vascular compartments through derived parameters like blood flow. An alternative way of doing this is to use an agent which consists of millions of tiny air bubbles, each with a size of less than 10µm. Each of these microbubbles will reflect the sound wave to produce an image. Using this targeted microbubble technique, medical staff can detect lesions, assess their size and their importance as well as monitor the efficacy of treatments for the affected area. The novel microbubbles were targeted to human platelets and researchers found that use of these increased the ultrasonic detection of human thrombi or clots. Further experiments revealed the possibility of using the microbubbles for therapeutic thrombolysis to disperse the clot. Alternative imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography are expensive. It is foreseen that the use of microbubbles may be an efficient cost-effective alternative that has the added advantage of being readily transportable.

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