Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tech Helps Stroke Survivors

Stroke is the leading cause of long term disability in the U.S. On an average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds in this country with approximately 780,000 people suffering strokes annually. Two-thirds of all stroke patients require intensive rehabilitation. It has been found that stroke patients who were rehabilitated using a robot to navigate virtual reality environments were able to walk faster and walk a greater distance following physical therapy as compared with those patients trained with the robot alone, according to researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).

The experiment had the patients manipulate the robot by using a handheld gaming joystick with their feet and navigate a plane and a boat in their virtual environments through various targets and changing weather conditions.

As Judith E. Deutsch PT, PhD, Professor and Director of Research at the Virtual Environments and Rehabilitation Sciences (RIVERS) lab at UMDNJ pointed out more and more physical therapists will learn how useful virtual reality systems to drive behavior and train patients can be. In the future, there will be a substantial interfacing of robotics and virtual reality systems that will be used for rehabilitation. Dr. Deutsch, reports that RIVERS Lab’s next endeavor is to figure out who are the right patients for this type of rehabilitation.

In another project at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, researchers studied how to help stroke survivors suffering from partial paralysis on one side of their body. It has been found that only 5 percent who receive rehabilitation therapy ever regain full control of their arm, however, a new high tech arm brace just developed may better those odds and help millions of patients to regain the ability to perform everyday tasks.

The researchers are using the Myomo e100 NeuroRobotic System ™ that works by sensing electrical impulses in the muscles that are indicating intended movement and provides patients with motorized assistance. A pilot study published by Dr. Joel Stein, Director of the Rehabilitation Medicine Service at the hospital, showed that stroke survivors with severe arm weakness that used the Myomo device showed a 23 percent increase in a measure of arm movement.

This New York hospital is the first and only metro area hospital to offer the Myomo device. The device manufactured by Myomo of Boston is available only for use under the supervision of an occupational or physical therapist.