Robotic Device Improves Stroke Recovery
According to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), use of a novel robotic device can help improve recovery from stroke. Researchers, using functional (fMRI), in conjunction with use of a hand operated robotic device, observed how the brain responds during stroke recovery, even six months after stroke has occurred.
Chronic stroke patients may find hope from the device. It was previously believed that rehabilitation from stroke was only possible for three to six months after stroke occurs. Now scientists have found that the brain can respond to exercises that improve stroke recovery up to six months or more following a stroke.
According to A. Aria Tzika, Ph.D., director of the NMR Surgical Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Shriners Burn Institute, and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Harvard Medical School in Boston, "We have learned that the brain is malleable, even six months or more after a stroke, which is a longer period of time than previously thought."
The researchers mapped the brain with MRI before, during and after the rehabilitative exercises performed using the robotic hand device. Dr. Tzika says, "Our research is important because 65 percent of people who have a stroke affecting hand use are still unable to incorporate the affected hand into their daily activities after six months." The robotic device helped stroke recovery - measureable by fMRI. The patients squeezed the robotic device for one hour a day, three days per week over a period of four weeks while brain changes were viewed on fMRI. The results showed that the cortex of the brain, the area that controls use of our hand, was reactivated. The brain changes persisted following exercise, showing improved blood flow in the cortex of the brain.
Dr. Tzika says, "These findings should give hope to people who have had strokes, their families and the rehabilitative specialists who treat them."
Stroke recovery is difficult. Traditionally, therapists assist stroke patients immediately after a stroke occurs. If there is no improvement in functional status that results from paralysis, adaptive devices are used to assist patients with activities of daily living. Weakness from stoke impairs many patients ability to perform simple tasks such as eating, putting on clothing, and daily grooming. The new research shows that stroke recovery is possible for a much longer period than previously thought.
According to the CDC, stroke leaves 80 to 90 percent of survivors with permanent weakness. Severe disabilities prevent stroke patients from enjoying a normal life, and affect 700,000 people annually in the United States.
The robotic device developed by the researchers clearly improved recovery from stroke in the patients studied.