It looks like we are now entering the very high-tech age of managing stroke patients. Researchers are now trying to employ robots in rehabilitation.
Using robots in a therapeutic role in neurorehabilitation, particularly for stroke, is based on the premise that repeating limb movements can help to recover motor control. However, stroke is the most common cause of severe disability in the UK, and physiotherapists are in short supply. So if patients can retrain limbs with the aid of a robot but overseen by a professional physio, then more patients can get more out of rehab programmes.
Hermano Krebs is a principal research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is one of the leaders in robotics, with a broad research base to his work. It’s what pioneers in the UK are building on today and everyone who’s anyone in therapeutic robots will at some stage pass through his lab.
‘We started here in 1989 back when I was a student at MIT,’ he says. ‘We introduced a paradigm shift in the use of robots for rehabilitation.’ Previously, they had been used as assistive devices: helping people with a spinal cord injury to feed themselves or as a prosthesis. ‘Our idea was to introduce a tool to help clinicians increase their productivity and make more efficient use of their time.’
Initial trials of a robot-assisted arm and shoulder exercises were with sub-acute patients with a localised lesion. Patients who had the added robot therapy showed twice as much improvement as those who did not.
However, none of them have ever been used in the actual settings yet. All results have been based on clinical trials. Click here to read more.
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