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UT researcher designs robotic instrument for stroke victims15 March 2014, by Ellen Keith
In the near future, recovering stroke patients may be able to convalesce at home, independent of a therapist. On March 13, Ard Westerveld received his doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Twente for his research on control strategies for post-stroke rehabilitation of upper extremities.
Chances are that most people personally know someone who has suffered a stroke, technically known as a brain haemorrhage or infarction. After all, each day, approximately 28.800 people in the world suffer one, which can temporarily or permanently restrict arm or hand motor functions in up to three-quarters of victims.
Through his work with the University of Twente’s MIRA research institute, Westerveld has created a (prototype) automated convalescence tool. The idea of using robotics in patient recovery is nothing new in itself, but what is unique about Westerveld’s development is that it synthesises two technologies: robotics and electrical stimulation.
The latter works to trigger muscles, while the former can physically support patients with weakened muscles while they move their upper extremities.
Electrical stimulation helps the arm or hand grasp or release objects, while the robotic aspect enables patients to reach for things. In order for this system to work, patients must learn to relax.
Westerveld believes that his research results provide an optimistic outlook on the practical possibilities for automated convalescence in patient care. By employing his system, recovering patients will be able to work through their physical therapy on their own agendas, in the privacy and comfort of their own homes.
"This leads to therapy becoming more intense," he argues, "promoting the recovery of patients. In addition, the burden on care professionals is greatly reduced. Home convalescence is the future."
For a visual impression of Westerveld’s research, you can view the short video below.
Source: University of Twente