The self-controlled device use electrodes placed on the arm, which deliver an electrical shock and makes the patient’s muscles move.
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Intento, the start up created by Swiss research institutions EPFL and NCCR Robotics, has created a patient-controlled electrical stimulation device to help stroke victims regain mobility in affected arms. A common stroke-rehabilitation method uses functional electrical stimulation, where a therapist places electrodes on the patient’s skin and delivers an electric shock that makes the patient’s muscles move. Studies have shown this therapy works best when patients are involved in moving their own limbs.
Intento’s creation consists of electrode patches, a device the patients control using their working hand, and a tablet software. After selecting one of the tablet programs, it shows where the electrodes need to be placed and automatically configures the electrical pulse settings to generate the desired movement. Patients then move their functioning hand to control the electrical stimulation needed to fulfil the movement, such as picking up a glass or pressing a button.
The ultimate aim is that patients can perform the movements without using the device. A study by Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) showed that patient mobility significantly bettered after using the device, with 70% of patients showing notable improvement in their motor functions compared with only 30% using conventional therapy.
Stroke rehabilitation has been the subject of different technology trials, with a wearable sleeve to boost stroke recovery rate and a smart glove that uses gaming to help stroke patients recover the use of a hand being among solutions being tested. Will digital wearables ever reach the mainstream in stroke rehabilitation?