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Mock-up of the intended research into a wearable sleeve for the rehabilitation of stroke patients. The University of Southhampton recently received a grant of almost one-million pounds over two-years to develop a wearable sleeve with first-class sensor technology to help stroke victims recover. The sleeve will track progress and ensure that patients complete their necessary therapy every day. (via University of Southampton)

 

New research has been funded which will take a new, high-tech approach to physical therapy. The project will create an advanced wearable arm sleeve meant to help rehabilitate stroke patients. The project is a collaboration between the University of Southhampton, Imperial College London and two consultancies, Maddison and Tactiq, specializing in medical technology.

 

The project, led by Jane Burridge, has recently been funded with almost one-million pounds from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) over the next two years. It is hoped that the sleeve will help stroke victims recuperate faster and more effectively, and at less cost for the United Kingdom’s publicly funded National Health Services (NHS).

 

The sleeve is meant to be the first of its kind - combining a wealth of state-of-the-art sensors for the first time. The wearable will utilize mechanomyography (MMG), and inertial measurement units (IMU) utilizing tri-axil accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. The MMG sensors will act like sensitive microphones that can detect the vibration of muscle contractions. The IMU sensors, many of which are found in fitness wearables, detect motion and movement of the arm itself. The MMG and IMU sensory data will be cooperated to gain an accurate and exact view of the patients’ movement and muscle contraction and weed out noise and unnecessary data.

 

In essence, the wearable arm sleeve is nothing more than a glorified fitness tracker, however its use is pointed towards a singular purpose to solve the biggest reported issues faced by patients and therapists. The wearable sleeve itself will not necessarily help stroke victims rehabilitate any better, in and of itself. The sleeve is intended, instead, to ensure that stroke patients are doing their physical therapy exercises regularly and accurately at home. It also would help therapists gain a more accurate and objective view of their patients’ progress in order to better diagnose and plan for their continued rehabilitation.

 

All of the progress can be seen in tracked from a mobile app so that both the patient and the therapist can have an accurate and current view of their progress. Reportedly, the app would also be able to notify the patients whether they are doing the exercise correctly as well – which would eliminate the need for a physical therapist to regularly monitor their exercises in-person. The technology will be trialled at two NHS sites for viability and cost savings.

 

It is very unclear as to how much this new wearable will actually help improve the success rate of rehabilitation of the arms and hands of stroke patients. However, it does seems like the cost savings to the NHS is the main driver of this program, which would allow them to provide almost exclusive home-based care to patients via the wearable and an app rather than actually increasing care with medical professionals.