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VOL. 127 | NO. 56 | Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Robot Therapy Introduced At Baptist Rehab

By Aisling Maki

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Baptist Rehabilitation-Germantown this month began offering patients interactive therapy with the InMotion Arm Robot, a device that helps them achieve arm function after a stroke or other illness.

Kenneth Guillemet, right, works with occupational therapist Sheila Harris at Baptist Rehabilitation-Germantown.

(Photo Courtesy of Greg Campbell)

The hospital said it’s the first in the area to offer this new technology to patients.

“We have a commitment to being a leader in neurologic rehabilitation,” said Amy Barringer, clinical director at Baptist Rehab. “We want to bring the latest evidence-based practice to our community. It’s also very well known in the rehabilitation community that for individuals with neurologic conditions, the upper extremity tends to lag in terms of recovery. I’ve seen patients who’ve had a stroke and their walk is pretty good, but they have a non-functional arm.”

Therapy with the InMotion Arm Robot helps improve elbow and shoulder control for patients with stroke, traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. But there are also indications for patients with orthopedic shoulder injuries.

“There is a lot of research in the field of rehabilitation right now,” Barringer said. “We’re learning about a concept called neuroplasticity, which means our brain is able to adapt based on activities that we perform or stimulus that we feed into the system. … The stimulus required to make this happen is the action needs to be intentional; the patients need to provide an active cognitive and physical effort that’s a highly repetitive functional task. It’s been shown that if you can provide that type of stimulation to a patient, it can cause the brain to reorganize so that new areas of the brain will begin to drive that function.”

Baptist Rehab’s new equipment offers patients an additional option to upper extremity retraining. It uses a computer interface that allows the patient to try to hit a target or complete a task on the screen, allowing for high-repetition sessions that are time and cost effective.

“If the patient doesn’t initiate the task, the robot will initiate for them, but if the patient begins to move on their own, the robot backs off,” Barringer said. “And if the patient veers away from the task, the robot will guide them back, so it’s an assist-as-needed system.”

The system is adaptable, so patients can use it either seated or while standing.

Studies have also shown incidences of motor recovery are twice that of traditional therapy alone, and many patients reported reduced joint pain and spasticity.

While a traditional therapy session generates about 40 to 60 repetitions of a movement, a typical robotic therapy session would generate about 1,000 repetitions.

“A therapist moving an arm or doing a task, while they don’t get as many repetitions, they also are slower than what the nervous system is used to,” said Monika Kolwaite, brain injury coordinator at Baptist Rehab. “The robot can initiate the motions much faster or reverse that motion much faster, so it’s a better learning model for the brain, which recognizes that quick timing much faster.”

Studies conducted have shown that the therapy is suitable for patients of all ages, and even works years after the onset of patients’ disabilities.

The hospital said that in one study of an 8-year-old girl whose left side had been paralyzed since infancy, used the robot to move her left arm in a circle hundreds of times a session. Within 18 months, she was able to raise her arm as high as her ear for the first time since she was 17 months old.

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