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Robot helps stroke victims regain movement

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A robot trainer has recently been proven to help people who have suffered a stroke regain some mobility in their limbs, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by Brown University and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that patients can reclaim movement and become more optimistic about the future a long time after their stroke. This is thanks to specially trained staff and robotic aids helping to train the sufferer.

Study author and sssistant professor of neurology at Brown University Albert Lo commented: “There are about 6.4 million stroke patients in the U.S. with chronic deficits. We’ve shown that with the right therapy, they can see improvements in movement, everyday function, and quality of life. This is giving stroke survivors new hope.”

The trials were conducted over a period of three years and on 127 stroke victims, enrolled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. On average, their stroke occured five years previously and many had suffered multiple attacks.

Patients carried out guided, repetitive exercises three times a week for three months. They were split into three groups, one of which did the intensive exercises with a therapist while the second was aided by a robotic device designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the third received general health care without any stroke-specific therapy.

Those receiving robotic aid showed siginificant improvement in their quality of life as well as limb mobility.

The BBC talked to Dr Diane Playford from the Institute of Neurology in London, who is part of a team trying to develop similar technology in the UK.

The expert expressed her hope that, at some stage, the device will be compact enough for the patient to keep and use in their homes.

She said: “The fact that these patients have improved function is exciting. We would normally think that patients who began therapy at an earlier stage could do even better.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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