According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, aneurysms are present in an estimated 6 million Americans alone. An aneurysm occurs when the wall of a blood vessel allows blood to begin to pool behind it. This results in a balloon-like sac that grows over time. Over time, the aneurysm ruptures. A ruptured aneurysm can result in internal bleeding that can prove fatal. These blood vessel abnormalities occur most commonly in the brain and heart, specifically in the circle of Willis region of the brain, and the aorta.
In the course of a year, around 30,000 Americans will experience an aneurysm rupture. What’s more, worldwide, a brain aneurysm ruptures once every 18 minutes. Sadly, around 40% of these events will prove fatal. What’s more, 66% of those who survive will suffer some form of permanent brain damage. Around 15% of patients with a ruptured brain aneurysm die before reaching the hospital. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include extremely painful headache, nausea, a stiff neck, impaired vision, sensitivity to light and seizure. The immediate damage from a ruptured brain aneurysm occurs because the brain is robbed of vital nutrients and oxygen. The risk for developing an aneurysm begins to increase after the age of 35.
Traditional Detection Techniques
In all aneurysm cases, early detection is crucial. Aneurysms can be resolved if detected early enough, even when found in the brain. Despite the fact that this condition can be detected via MRI, 25% of ruptured aneurysms are misdiagnosed because doctors are hesitant to order the costly scans. After all, a single brain scan can cost thousands of dollars. Individuals with any of these conditions can benefit from preventive MRI screenings: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, fibromuscular dysplasia, hypertension, and kidney disease. Additionally, certain drugs, such as cocaine, crack, amphetamines and tobacco increase aneurysm risk substantially.
The CTA, or computed tomography angiography scan is also used to locate aneurysms. The procedure combines a CT scan with a reactive dye. The detection of an aneurysm can have ramifications beyond immediate health concerns—for instance, the status of life and health insurance policies. Regardless, most doctors recommend that first-degree relatives of individuals with aneurysms receive scans.
The Cerebral Stethoscope
Unfortunately, MRI and CT scans don’t always detect these abnormalities. The brain is an incredibly complex structure, and its many folds can make it difficult for technicians to spot irregularities. ProTron Technologies, a medical diagnostic tool developer, has patented a device that may have a better success rate than these scans at a lower price. The device, known as the Stethotron, is described as a stethoscope for the brain.
This electronic stethoscope operates in the 250 to 1000 Hz range and can detect the turbulence that occurs when blood pools within aneurysms. The Stethotron is capable of detecting cerebral aneurysms before they rupture, and it can even detect changes in the brain that lead to aneurysms before they form. This feature may save patients a great deal of money and time as treating aneurysms before they reach full size is much easier than the alternative. Furthermore, because the device operates in non-ultrasound frequencies, there is no risk of burning delicate brain tissue.