New devices will help thousands of stroke victims recover mobility

Researchers from The University of Bath and the Chippenham Stroke Unit are playing a major role in a three-year programme to develop a special device which can be fitted inside caps or gloves.

Patients recovering from stroke and suffering paralysis can wear these devices to let them know if they are taking enough exercise to restore the use of their limbs.

At present people typically receive three to six months physiotherapy after suffering a stroke to encourage them to use their paralysed limb as much as they can to regain mobility. But when the physiotherapy ends they may stop trying because they are not getting encouragement, and so may once again lose mobility.

The devices the team are developing will be worn for part of the day and will store data electronically when the stroke victim moves which can later be read by users. This will tell them if they need to do more exercise and if they need to vary their movement or try for better balance.

The researchers are also exploring the possibility of the device being remotely connected to equipment in a GP's or physiotherapist's office so that expert feedback will also be possible.

The team working on the devices includes experts from the University of Bath, the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases and the Chippenham Stroke Unit. The project is co-ordinated by Sheffield Hallam University. The work is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The project, which has £690,000 funding, has begun with a review of the literature about the mobility of stroke victims. Dr Christopher Eccleston and Ms Nargis Islam at the Pain Management Unit of the University of Bath and the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Trust, and Dr Nigel Harris, Head of Clinical Measurement also at the RNHRD, will then conduct focus groups of stroke victims and their carers to find out what kind of device would be best for them.

They will then talk to engineers from the universities of Essex and Ulster so that the design work on the devices can begin. The prototypes will be tested in Bath and Sheffield in mid 2005 and the design should be ready to be manufactured commercially by December 2006.

"This project will develop new devices that will help many thousands of stroke victims in the UK to recover some of the use of paralysed limbs by improving home-based exercise," said Dr Eccleston.

"The devices will allow rehabilitation to continue after physiotherapy comes to an end and so will prove an invaluable aid to recovery."

For more information please contact Tony Trueman at the University of Bath press office:
01225 386883 or 07966 431 322

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