Researchers chart patient progress with technology you use every day
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) April 2013 – The same smart phone technology you might use to find directions or play video games is being tested in a new way - to see if it can help stroke survivors learn to walk again.
Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are the first to test this innovative approach, which combines blue tooth technology with a sophisticated computer program that charts the movement of a patient’s arms and legs during rehabilitation.
“These moving body parts are in a constant state of motion, but with this technology we can figure out how they are all working together,” said Stephen Page, PhD, who is leading the study. “This gives us the ability to objectively, precisely, figure out at the bedside or in a rehab facility, how well someone is improving.”
With this approach, therapists attach small sensors to the patient’s legs, arms and chest. Those sensors use blue tooth technology to gauge where they are in relation to each other and the ground. Then, to determine more precisely how the arms and legs are moving, researchers rely on accelerometers, the same technology used in your smart phone to adjust the screen as you hold it upright or tilt it onto its side.
To see the technology in action click on the video box to the left.
To read the full press release, click on “click to read more” link below.
OHIO STATE TESTS SMART PHONE TECHNOLOGY IN STROKE REHABILITATION
COLUMBUS, Ohio – While many of us take the technology packed into smart phones and tablets for granted, researchers that specialize in rehabilitation are inspired by it, using it to evaluate the progress of stroke survivors who are learning to walk again.
A team at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is applying two well-tested applications in brand new ways in an attempt to improve mobility in people who have suffered a stroke.
“In our study, we’re measuring how well people walk before and after intervention with a new system of wireless sensors that use the same technology found in cell phones and tablets,” said Stephen Page, PhD, an associate professor of occupational therapy at Ohio State’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “This is the first time this approach has been used.”
The team is using wireless sensors that contain tiny accelerometers, which measure the force of acceleration and are used in smart phones and tablets to sense movement and help adjust the image on the screen. Six sensors are placed on the study participant’s arms, legs and chest. As the person walks, or performs other functional activities, the sensors relate information to each other and back to a computer that charts how and where the person is moving.
“The nice thing about this technology is we can measure their balance and walking anywhere,” said Page. “We can have someone go up steps or perform household tasks, such as in a kitchen. Anywhere that walking or balance is important is a place we can capture how well the person is moving.”
Page is using this technology to evaluate progress in a study that is testing a new type of rehabilitation intervention for stroke survivors. For the first time, Page’s team is combining electrical muscle stimulation, which has been used to improve muscle function for decades, with active stepping motion on a recumbent bicycle. The goal of the study is to determine whether the combination of active motion and electrical stimulation provides added benefit for the patient through neuroplasticity, or retraining the brain.
“The stepping motion on a recumbent bike uses similar parts of the brain as when a person is actually walking,” said Page. “We are trying to recruit new areas of the brain, around the stroke-damaged areas, which is called ‘neuroplasticity,’ and get those areas to hopefully control walking again.”
The first part of this study will examine ten people who experienced a stroke within a year to 18 months prior to study enrollment and have limited ability to walk. Over the course of ten weeks, half of the study participants will receive electrical stimulation on their legs while biking, while the other half receives placebo treatment while biking.
Page says this study challenges the notion among many physicians and rehabilitation experts that stroke survivors reach a recovery plateau within a year after their stroke.
“We have shown in more than a decade of studies that this belief is not true, and we expect to show that with this intervention. Stroke survivors can continue to get better and see meaningful gains years after their stroke,” said Page.
For more information about this and other stroke rehabilitation studies, call 614-292-5490 or email Stephen.Page@osumc.edu.