The rehabilitation process for stroke victims can be long and painful. If the stroke has a large impact on the communication centers of the brain, it can be difficult for patients to communicate to their physical therapist which can create further issues during the rehabilitation process. Engineers are developing systems to respond to this need, particularly in Europe. Several new advances promise to revolutionize the way that stroke patients are rehabilitated.
One new innovation shows the most promise. Called the CORBYS robot, this new machine has the ability, through sensors, to sense how strong a patient is, how they are responding to treatment and can make even the most minute adjustments that are needed. For example, if a stroke patient is walking on a treadmill, the CORBYS robot can be hooked up to them through a series of stick-on sensors and a special cap. As the patient begins walking, the robot monitors their heart rate, muscle tension and strength as well as their current heart rate.
“The walking robot has several settings, and the therapist selects the correct mode based on how far the patient has come in his or her rehabilitation”, says Anders Liverud of SINTEF. “The first step is to attach sensors to the patient’s body and let them walk on a treadmill. A therapist manually corrects the walking pattern and, with the help of the sensors, create a model of the patient’s walking pattern”,
“The patient wears an EEG cap which measures brain activity”, continues Liverud. “By using these signals combined with input from other physiological and system sensors, the robotic system registers whether the patient wants to stop, change speed or turn, and can adapt immediately”, he says. “The robot continues to correct any walking pattern errors. However, since it also allows the patient the freedom to decide where and how he or she walks, the patient experiences control and keeps motivation to continue with the training.”
These new advances will have a big impact on the medical community and the demand for engineers who specialize in medical technology is high. As more medical companies begin to adopt this technology, the demand is only going to increase.
This is great news for engineering students who wish to enter the medical field. Not only are the job opportunities strong and the pay competitive, but they will also have the ability to have a tremendous impact on the lives of patients by improving their rehab prospects as well as their overall quality of life.
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