Posted June 22, 2010
By Kyle Glennie
A Faculty of Medicine student who is developing a computer program to help doctors assess ischemic strokes has been awarded a lucrative scholarship from Alberta Innovates–Health Solutions. Quinn Thomson, a PhD student in biomedical engineering who works in the lab of the Faculty of Medicine’s Ross Mitchell, PhD, will receive $20,000 a year for the next three years, as well as a $1500 research allowance per year. He is one of only 28 students to receive the Alberta Innovates–Health Solutions scholarship.
“This scholarship is quite well known, it’s one of the scholarships that you just sort of apply for and hope for the best,” says Thomson. “It’s feels great and is a terrific honour.”
Thomson’s work focuses on automated stroke severity scoring. Stroke doctors at Foothills Hospital, as part of the Alberta Stroke Program, have created a scoring system that has proven to be an effective tool to help predict outcomes based on how a patient’s stroke presents when they arrive at hospital. Right now the doctors will look at the CT scan of a patient and by using the Alberta Stroke Program Early CT scoring system they developed, they will give the patient a score. Based on that score, they can accurately decide whether the patient is a candidate for thrombolytic drugs if the stroke isn’t too severe (thrombolytic drugs can cause hemorrhaging in severe strokes), and what the long-term damage to a patient may be.
The problem with the scoring system is that it is subjective and relies solely on the doctor reading the CT scan. “When a doctor reads a CT scan, they are looking at an image that is difficult to decipher where the damaged parts of the brain are,” explains Thomson. “My program analyzes the image and provides doctors with clearer information on the stroke and the effects it has had on a patient.”
So far Thomson has tested his software with promising results. He’s hoping to have it fully ready for use in hospitals within the next two to three years.