Physiatry Robot Technology Helps Stroke VictimsPosted by in Physiatry
On World Stroke Day, October 29, 2011, a physiatry facility in Los Angeles provided demonstrations of a robotic arm that assists people who have lost arm movement function following a stroke. The device is called the Myomo System, which is short for “My Own Motion,” and was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard Medical School. The FDA has approved the system for patients to use at home or in a clinical setting.
Designed to perform physiatry (physical therapy) techniques utilizing technology rather than a practitioner, Myomo is used to rehabilitate stroke patients who have one arm that has lost some or all of the ability the move. When using the Myomo brace, the patient initiates the motion, and software within the device senses even weak movement and allows for motion, while monitoring that motion. The robotic arm is driven by electromyography (EMG) so that electrical stimulation is not required.
The makers of the robotic arm point to research that indicate repeated movement is what allows a stroke victim to regain the use of a limb. When a patient has very limited movement available immediately after a stroke, the physiatry exercises can be difficult to achieve, causing the patient to become discouraged. Myomo facilitates this movement, particularly in the early stages of rehabilitation, helping the patient to regain limb function by reprogramming the brain to send signals to the body part.
In the past, robotic devices have been very expensive and heavy. Myomo is small enough to be used at home to augment the patient’s own movement. It fits over the stroke patient’s arm similar to a sleeve, and the sensors within the sleeve sense faint muscle signals, at which time the device assists the patient in moving the arm.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke is essentially an “attack” by the brain as a result of a blood clot that blocks an artery that carries blood to the heart or a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain. Damage to the brain then occurs very quickly, causing the victim to lose body functions, memory, the ability to speak, or become partially paralyzed.
Annually, 15 million people in the world experience a stroke, six million of whom die. The remaining five million suffer some permanent or temporary disabilities. Devices like Myomo can assist patients in restoring function lost after a stroke. Alongside the work of an experienced physiatrist at a facility for physiatry in New Jersey or elsewhere, stroke victims can sometimes return to normal.
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