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Patients Suffering Stroke Will Be Able To Recover Using An Assistive Robot And Videogames

July 20, 2011

Today 15 million persons throughout the world suffer from an ictus every year and 5 million are left with chronic disabilities. FIK designed a system for alleviating neuromuscular disability amongst these patients from their homes and by which these can be permanently supervised by the therapist who will be able to carry out a quantitative evaluation of the therapy. To this end, they have brought together new technologies and entertainment and a greater quality of rehabilitation.

The patient will be able to enhance his or her arm mobility by means of a portable robotic device and a software platform with videogames for tele-rehabilitation, so that the doctor can carry out the online monitoring of these exercises through the quantitative results obtained from the said games. This is the ArmAssist project, currently based at the La Fe Hospital in Valencia, to find out the degree of satisfaction of patients who have suffered a brain stroke and admitted to this hospital. Subsequently ArmAssist will be tested in other geographical areas such as Barcelona`s Guttmann Institute.

The aim is to evaluate the usefulness of the system and thus be able to identify the professional training needs that may arise both amongst patients as well as for therapists. The clinical protocol designed in this case will be a prospective, non-randomised clinical trial. The goal is to identify both the viability of the technology as well as possible obstacles when taking the rehabilitation to the home. During the clinical trials, patients will start to use ArmAssist as soon as possible, and will be sent home with it in order to continue rehabilitation at home under the remote supervision of the therapist.

Behind this novel project is FIK, a business initiative focused on research into the field of ageing and disability. Two years ago it launched its first patents in this field and today ArmAssist is the embodiment of this commitment to providing solutions of value for an ageing population.

The device and videogames

ArmAssist consists of a mobile-based device that is connected to the user through a orthesis that records and measures the movements of the shoulder and the elbow. This mobile base is connected to a Standard computer that links the movements carried out by the arm with the requests and exigencies of the videogames developed ad hoc for the rehabilitation of the upper limbs.

The exercises proposed for favouring the rehabilitation of the patient are of two kinds: evaluation and training. The evaluation ones are short and which should be undertaken every day at the beginning and the end of the training session. These videogames train independently the range of motion, force, distance and of precision, so that the therapist can evaluate the progress of the patient.

For their part, the training games last longer and are more amenable for the patient. The objective is precisely to motivate the patient, training the arm over a longer period. These games also integrate a cognitive component in order to train also this aspect. Amongst these videogames, there are puzzles, memory games and card solitaire games.

Telerehabilitation

The programmes of rehabilitation involve a combination of exercises to be carried out in the hospital under medical supervision and a series of exercises recommended to be undertaken at home. Currently, these exercises, in the majority of cases, cannot be done outside the medical centre ““ due to the excessive size of the current systems and which impede their portability. Moreover, the therapists have no kind of control over the therapy and so cannot provide a suitable programme of monitoring and enhancement.

Using telerehabilitation software that this assitive arm includes, a link is created between the patient and the therapist, which enables training him or her in their homes, and more independently, given that, using the computer programme with an Internet connection, the doctor can ensure the patient is doing the exercises correctly. 

The therapist will thus be able to carry out a quantitative evaluation of the progress of the patient, an aspect that to date has not been covered by rehabilitation systems and represents a value enhancement for both patient and doctor. This software for telerehabilitation is a complete tool as it encompasses all stages of the therapy, from planning, carrying it out, and its monitoring.

ArmAssist can be used by acute phase patients, after having suffered a brain stroke, as well as chronic patients, for continuous training of the upper limbs for other kinds of disorders apart from ictus.

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