Our charity is working in partnership with MedCity, an organisation that promotes investment and business in life science. We’re funding projects that bring together researchers and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to develop digital technologies or medical devices which will improve stroke diagnosis or support people to rebuild their lives after stroke.
You can read about one of the projects below.
Why is this research needed?
A stroke happens in the brain, the control centre for who we are and what we can do. The impact that a stroke has varies depending on which part of the brain is affected. If it damages the areas of the brain that control movement, the brain can struggle to send signals to muscles telling them to move. This causes weakness in certain muscles and can lead to problems with movement.
Most stroke survivors have problems with movement after stroke, and they should be offered physiotherapy as part of their rehabilitation. Physiotherapy helps stroke survivors to practice the things they find difficult, like standing or walking, and strengthen muscles to make them work more effectively.
Clinical guidelines recommend that stroke survivors that need physiotherapy receive 45 minutes of rehabilitation therapy every day. This should continue for as long as they want the rehabilitation and are showing benefit from it.
But evidence shows that the majority of stroke survivors receive far less than this in hospital, and almost nothing once they’re out of the hospital.
The amount of rehabilitation stroke survivors receive has a big influence on their recovery.
We know that stroke survivors who have a poor recovery have a lower quality of life, and are less likely to take an active part in their community and get back to work. A Stroke Association survey also revealed that 45% of stroke survivors feel abandoned when they leave the hospital because they aren’t getting the help and support they need.
Time in therapy with a physiotherapist is important as stroke survivors can get feedback on the movements they’re practising. They need to know whether they’re performing the movement in a correct way to avoid more problems with their movement in the future. But the lack of physiotherapy stroke survivors receive means that many don’t get this kind of feedback.
Vitrue Health Ltd has developed a low-cost, portable, camera-based computer programme that can measure how someone moves and provide feedback on things like balance, posture, strength, and flexibility. But this technology hasn’t been used in stroke rehabilitation before, and more work is needed to make the system useful for stroke survivors and healthcare professionals.
What are the project team hoping to do?
During this project, the team will develop and adapt the current technology so that it could be used in stroke rehabilitation:
- They’ll work with stroke survivors and healthcare professionals to understand what they need from the technology and how they would use it.
- Next, they’ll develop their current system and create a prototype product for use in stroke rehabilitation.
- Finally, they’ll test their prototype with stroke survivors and healthcare professionals to check that what they’ve developed meets their needs.
What difference can this project make to the lives of those affected by stroke?
This project can make the system suitable for use in stroke rehabilitation. The team can then try to understand whether it helps physiotherapists in their work and whether it improves stroke survivor’s rehabilitation experience and outcomes.
The project team hope that, once it has been developed and tested, this technology could:
- Measure the stroke survivor’s movement when they receive physiotherapy and do exercises themselves, giving them feedback whilst they practice.
- Help to individualise physiotherapy by allowing physiotherapists to ‘prescribe’ exercises for stroke survivors to practice based on their movement.
- Help stroke survivors to understand how they’re moving to address problems and make improvements.
As the technology to measure movement and provide feedback is portable, the project team hope that this could eventually be used by stroke survivors in hospital, in community rehabilitation services, and at home, increasing access to vital rehabilitation.
Who is in the project team?
Vitrue Health Ltd specialises in developing computer programmes that can gather information from digital images and videos in order to analyse how the human body moves. These programmes can then convert this into understandable information for both healthcare professionals and patients.
This project will develop a low-cost, portable, camera-based system to measure movement that the company has developed.
Prof Anand Pandyan is a bioengineer (someone who applies engineering techniques to problems in medicine – for example designing artificial limbs and organs) and has been working in neurorehabilitation for over 30 years. He’s interested in developing technological solutions for stroke rehabilitation. He’ll be using his experience to develop the system and test it with patients.
Dr Fraser Philp, from Keele University, will also be working on this project. Dr Philp is a Physiotherapist with experience in measuring human performance and exercise prescription. He’ll be using his expertise to develop the exercise programmes and feedback that the system will offer the people using it.