World first study saving Queensland stroke victims

Queensland stroke patients will have their brains scanned in ambulances, rather than waiting to get to a hospital, in a world-first trial to save lives.

The SPIDER trial is a partnership between neurologists at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) and Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) using an EEG in the ambulance on patients suspected of having a blood clot in their brain.

Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services Steven Miles said stroke affects more than 56,000 Australians a year.

“Unfortunately, of those who survive, many will live with a disability which affects their ability to carry out daily activities,” Mr Miles said.

“We’re always looking for ways to use new technology to improve health outcomes for Queensland patients.”

Funded by more than $50,000 from QAS and a $40,000 grant from the RBWH Foundation, RBWH Director of Neurology Associate Professor Andrew Wong said the research is the first step towards a portable, cost-effective technology to more easily identify acute stroke patients in the ambulance, and improve those devastating statistics.

“Time is absolutely critical when it comes to stroke care,” Assoc Prof Wong said.

“If the patient—and the clot—is suitable we have special procedures performed in Medical Imaging to physically remove the clot and return blood flow to the brain.

“These treatments are very time dependent and require state-of-the-art, high-tech diagnostic equipment. By determining which patients need to come to RBWH sooner, we are saving lives.”

RBWH Foundation CEO Peter Treseder said the study was an example of what could be achieved through investment in innovation.

“This study is an invaluable step forward in the treatment of stroke and I hope we see some incredible outcomes for patients,” Mr Treseder said.

“The RBWH Foundation is committed to supporting clinicians and researchers. Without research or trials there would no advancement in patient care and treatment.”

Queensland Ambulance Service Critical Care Paramedic and PhD candidate Wayne Loudon said the pilot study involved using the SPIDER device within the Metro North catchment area.

“Upon completion of a thorough clinical assessment and with the permission of the patient, the EEG device is applied and begins recording,” he said.

“The SPIDER device will continue to record the data until arrival at hospital where the EEG is removed, and the data downloaded to a secure storage device.

“Being able to identify a stroke and its severity early allows us to activate the health system pathways and transport the patient in a timely manner to the most appropriate health facility.”

While the pilot SPIDER study is being trialled within the Metro North catchment area, the clot retrieval procedure at RBWH is available to suitable patients right across the state.  

To support medical research at RBWH, donate at


SPIDER stands for Stoke Prehospital Informed Decision-Making Using EEG Recordings

EEG (electroencephalography) is a method of recording electrical activity of the brain

Stroke is common, affecting more than 56000 Australians in 2017. It is often fatal, and even if not, 65 per cent of survivors suffer a disability which impedes their ability to carry out daily living activities unassisted. 85 per cent of stroke is caused by a clot (“Ischaemic stroke”) and 15 per cent is caused by bleeding. These treatments are only effective for ischaemic stroke.

Only around 20 per cent of those with an Acute Ischaemic Stroke that are potentially eligible for the clot retrieval procedure—making early detection essential.

Use the FAST test to help recognise the signs of stroke:

o   Face: check their face; has their mouth dropped?

o   Arms: can they lift both arms?

o   Speech: is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

o   Time: time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call 000 straight away.

The clot retrieval system is also offered at Princess Alexandra Hospital and Gold Coast University Hospital.

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