Health Beat: Stroke rehab: It's never too late

Health Beat: Stroke rehab: It's never too late

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Strokes are the third leading cause of death in this country. They are the leading cause of disability among adults. It was once thought that whatever mobility stroke survivors had after two years, that's all they would ever get, but researchers are developing new technology that's proving that fact wrong.

Seven years ago, Todd Daniels couldn't stand on his own.

"I suffered a brain injury, a traumatic brain injury," said Daniels, who suffered a stroke as a result. "My family was told I would always need to be in a nursing home and I would never walk again."

Determination is finally proving the experts wrong. Daniels is one of the first to use a new bionic arm, tested at The Ohio State University to help him regain movement.

"The pads pick up the intention, or the desire, for the patient to move. Then, the robot detects that and basically amplifies that desire to move," said Stephen Page, associate professor of occupational therapy at The Ohio State University.

For Daniels, the study's been a success.

"When he first started the study, the only time he could actually do any motion was involuntarily. So, now he's doing it voluntarily," said Heather Tanksley, an occupational therapy student.

Page believes, with the repetitive use of the bionic arm, a patient's brain is being rewired.

"Areas that maybe weren't being used or dedicated to a certain movement, like moving the arm, can actually be used," Page said.

Also, just how much a stroke patient is improving is, for the first time, being measured by the same technology used in your smart phone.

"When we turn it one way, or the another way, the screen change—so it's sensitive to movement," Page said.

Accelerometers, which measure the acceleration and direction of body movements, are placed on each ankle, both arms, and across the chest. 

"We are able to determine how well, how fast, and how efficiently a stroke survivor is moving," Page explained.

"Just gaining some motion back was just a huge step," Daniels explained.

Page believes that stroke patients in recovery, even 10 years after a stroke and possibly throughout the rest of their lives, can continue to increase their mobility. He hopes the bionic arm will be able to go home with the patients to help them do simple tasks around the house more easily.

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