This smart sleeve could improve stroke rehabilitation therapy

Rehabilitation wearables could mean faster, more effective, and lower cost recoveries

Some of the most exciting developments in technology are those that can improve our health and revolutionise healthcare. As we move into a time of high population levels and busy hospital services, technological developments could make it increasingly possible to receive the tailored care we need from the comfort of our own homes, allowing us to feel an increased level of comfort and personal control over our health and recovery, and perhaps lower the costs of healthcare.

One such technological development has come from scientists at the University of Southampton and Imperial College London who have developed and plan to trial a wireless sleeve that will help people who have suffered a stroke recover the use of their hand and arm.

The sleeve is the first piece of technology to incorporate mechanomyography (microphone-like sensors that are able to detect muscle contraction), alongside tri-axial accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers that are used to detect movement. The sleeve will take the data gathered from the sensors, put it together, and provide patients and their therapists with information about muscle movement and strength through app-based software.

Patients will receive feedback on their own user-friendly computer interface whilst therapists will use slightly different software that provides them with more information for diagnostic purposes. This means patient data can be gathered from movements they’ve been performing at home, showing improvements to patients in an accessible way whilst also allowing therapists to diagnose specific problems and see where the rehabilitation therapy might need to be tailored for these improvements to continue. The hope is that this system will allow for more efficient, effective, and flexible therapy.

Professor Jane Burridge who led the project says that there has been an increase in the survival rates for strokes thanks to improvements in acute care, but about 60% of people who have a moderate to severe stroke fail to recover useful function of their hand and arm.

After a stroke, patients are usually discharged from the hospital after a few days to encourage independence in recovery and avoid any complications a prolonged hospital stay might bring, but Professor Burridge says the problem with that is that “some patients struggle to carry out the exercises and they may question whether what they are doing is correct” and “therapists don’t have objective measurements about their patients’ muscle activity or ability to move.”

Her hope is that with rehabilitation technology like this sleeve, both patients and therapists will experience a more efficient and effective recovery process:

“We hope that our sleeve will help stroke patients regain the use of their arm and hand, reduce time spent with therapists and allow them to have the recommended 45 minutes daily therapy more flexibly. It will also be used to assess patients’ problems accurately as well as more cheaply and practically than using laboratory-based technologies.”

Via University of Southampton