Device Helps Stroke VictimsAfter a stroke, brain or spinal injury, people may lose much of the functionality of their hands. A device now in use at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin offers new hope to patients suffering this frustrating impairment. The NESS H200™ slips over the arm like a splint and electrically stimulates muscles of the forearm and hand, causing them to contract and restoring some of the lost function.
Regain Use of Hands
With the electrical stimulation, or “e-stim,” some people can point, grasp and release, allowing them to better feed themselves, work in the kitchen, dress, comb their hair or brush their teeth.
Physical therapists custom-fit the device to each person — unlike devices of the past — making therapy more efficient and easier for patients, their families and caregivers to continue at home.
Although results vary, some patients can see up to 50 percent improvement. “It’s been pretty phenomenal,” says Julie Kerk, supervisor of Rehabilitation Services for the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Neurosciences Center. “It has changed a lot of individuals’ ability to perform the activities of daily living,” she says.
Physical therapists also use the NESS H200™ in spastic hands that won’t relax — another effect of stroke.
While most of the relief is seen while the patient is wearing the device, “in some cases there’s a reorganizing within the brain to re-enable function. Intact areas of the brain can assume the function of injured areas of the brain,” says John McGuire, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin stroke physical medicine specialist and director of Stroke Rehabilitation.
Patients follow an at-home exercise program that involves reaching for, grasping and releasing objects — for example, picking up a pencil or bringing a cup to the mouth. Typically a patient uses the device two to four hours a day.
One patient, who initially was not able to use her hand at all, can now hold a horse’s reins and pick up small items. “She’s using her hands to hold books and turn pages,” says occupational therapist Terry Walton.
The device is “another technique we add to a comprehensive, client-centered rehabilitation program,” says Kerk. “As a teaching and research hospital, we’re given access to technology and are able to apply evidence-based practice,” she says. “We blend the best of high tech and low tech, with a personalized program, which patients like.” says.
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, the only institution in southeastern Wisconsin certified to fit people for the device, will be the first site in the country to offer a similar leg device to improve patients’ “footfall”— the ability to lift the feet when walking.
“People still improve years after a stroke or injury. You just have to give them the right tools,” Dr. McGuire says.
Source: Froedtert Today
Date: June 2006