How To Save Stroke Victims

11/01/2010 12:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Remember that cool IBM TV ad about using real-time data management technology to monitor the vital signs of preemies in a Toronto hospital? Well, it looks like the same technology could be used to help stroke victims as well.

Today, researchers at IBM and Columbia University Medical Center announced that they are investigating to find out if IBM's InfoSphere Streams software can help detect complications afflicting stroke victims in time to save lives. If the initial study shows promising results, they'll begin to use a monitoring system based on the technology in the medical center's neurological intensive care unit. "If we can demonstrate that this works, there are a lot of problems in health care we can start to tackle," says Dr. Michael Schmidt, director of neuromonitoring and informatics at the neurological ICU. "Nurses and clinicians in ICU's are totally overwhelmed with data. The whole field needs help."

Schmidt and his research collaborators are looking for patterns in data that could help them identify patients who are experiencing a severe complication to ruptured brain aneurysms. In certain kinds of bleeding strokes, a bubble in a blood vessel bursts (as seen in the brain scan above). If the patients survive this initial event and get to a hospital for treatment, they could have a complication called delayed ischemia: The blood vessels start to constrict, slowing the flow of blood to parts of the brain.

About 20% of the victims of this kind of bleeding stoke later suffer from delayed ischemia. Some of those victims don't show symptoms of the complication, so they go untreated-which results in brain tissue damage or even death. Researchers hope to come up with techniques for detecting signs of the condition earlier so clinicians can intervene to prevent further injury.

This collaboration is an example of a multidisciplinary research that promises to deliver new kinds of innovations that weren't possible in the past. It brings together researchers from IBM Research, the company's software division, Columbia University, and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
For IBM, this is a valuable opportunity to test out its technology in a new setting and learn how to integrate a wide variety of data types, including electroencephalogram feeds, blood pressure readings and blood oxygen levels. The hope is that eventually InfoSphere Streams will be useful in a wide range of medical applications-anywhere where a lot of data of different types has to be analyzed in real time.