Robotics aid stroke patients

A robotic system to help patients recover more quickly after a stroke is being developed with funding from the Department of Health.

A robotic system to help patients recover more quickly after a stroke is being developed with funding from the Department of Health.

The system, which is fitted to the patient’s arm, uses sensors to detect when the arm starts to move and supports the action using pneumatics, said project leader Dr Bipin Bhakta, senior lecturer and consultant in rehabilitation medicine at Leeds University.

‘As the patient attempts to move their arm the equipment could sense the movement and provide more or less assistance,’ he said.

‘It would be used when making practical, every-day reach and retrieve movements, such as grabbing something off a top shelf or from a surface.’

Bhakta is developing the robotic system with researchers at Leeds University’s School of Mechanical Engineering, Manchester University’s School of Computer Science, and Grampian Universities Hospitals. The project is being funded by a grant from the DoH’s New and Emerging Applications of Technologies programme.

Each year, 130,000 people in England and Wales suffer a stroke, and up to 85 per cent are left with some form of arm weakness. The system could supplement treatment from physical therapists, helping to stretch the NHS’s limited resources, said Bhakta.

‘It could be used by people with quite a lot of weakness or muscle spasticity – anything that might impede movement. The idea is that the system would be able to accommodate the varying types of problem people with strokes can have with their arm,’ he said.

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