By: John Keane, CEO and co-founder, MindRhythm

To understand how, and why, MindRhythm came to be, we have to start with the big picture. 

A stroke is a sudden interruption of the blood supply to the brain, and most are caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain – called an ischemic stroke. Impacting more than 800,000 people in the US per year, and between 15% to 30% of ischemic stroke victims become permanently disabled. Ischemic strokes result in more than 150,000 deaths per year – the 5th leading cause of death in the US. 

Though different stroke types vary in severity, all stroke types are serious medical emergencies and require immediate treatment. Large vessel occlusions (LVOs) require a thrombectomy to avoid catastrophic, permanent results for the patient.

LVO strokes are a widely-known issue in medicine, and incredibly costly in every way. An LVO stroke occurs when one of the major arteries of the brain is blocked. LVO strokes account for 26% to 46% of ischemic strokes, impacting approximately more than 224,000 US citizens every year. One of the most debilitating stroke types, there is no way to objectively diagnose an LVO stroke in an EMS setting, which often leads to misdiagnosis. Most hospitals do not have the technology to treat LVOs, and sending patients to the wrong hospital wastes valuable time. LVO strokes may be fatal or leave a patient permanently disabled, as they are more severe and result in less favorable outcomes for patients.

LVO strokes are also incredibly costly: equating to $68 billion in societal costs, as the leading cause of long-term disability; costly to our healthcare system – nursing homes, in particular; and emotionally devastating for victims and their loved ones. Fortunately, technology was developed to prevent serious, long-term damage from LVO stroke. 

Ten years ago, the thrombectomy was discovered. An evolution in treatment, thrombectomy is the interventional procedure that removes a blood clot from a blood vessel, and it is what can help save an LVO stroke patient’s life. However, only select hospitals possess the necessary equipment to perform a thrombectomy and remove an LVO stroke patient’s blood clot. 

Historically, there’s been no way to diagnose specific stroke types until a patient is brought to the hospital for a CT scan, which leaves paramedics in an immensely difficult position. Strokes can be difficult to identify, and different stroke types are nearly impossible for EMTs to diagnose. If an LVO stroke patient is taken to a hospital without the required equipment, the time it takes to transfer that patient to another hospital may result in permanent disability or fatality.

Harmony is noninvasive, simple, Bluetooth-enabled and inexpensive, and it helps to solve the triage problem for LVO strokes. Harmony can help rapidly identify patients experiencing LVO strokes to determine if paramedics need to bring the patient to the nearest Comprehensive Stroke Center (CSC), which has the necessary physicians, technologists and equipment needed to remove the clot. In contrast, patients without LVO stroke can be transported to a Primary Stroke Center (PSC), which can treat less severe stroke types and will likely be closer than a CSC.

With every hour of delayed treatment during an LVO stroke, the patient loses 2.6 years of life due to reduced blood flow to the brain. In a situation where minutes count, Harmony saves hours. That’s how our simple device can solve one of the biggest problems in medicine.