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PolyU has developed a wearable functional electrical stimulation robotic system for post-stroke patients to engage in interactive yet comfortable upper-limb rehabilitation.
Partial paralysis of the upper limbs is common after stroke, with therapeutic intervention crucial in improving the recovery of elbow, wrist/hand and finger function. With the support of Institute of Textiles and Clothing, Industrial Centre and other collaborative organizations, Dr Hu Xiaoling at PolyU’s Interdisciplinary Division of Biomedical Engineering thus designed a wearable functional electrical stimulation robotic hybrid system called Rehabilitation Sleeve (Rehab Sleeve) as a multi-joint upper-limb remedy for post-stroke patients.
Equipped with modular apparel and a bracing system, Rehab Sleeve can be flexibly used and comfortably worn. Various types of modular apparel for different parts of the upper limbs can be worn together or separately for different functional training needs. The bracing system, with skin moisture and pressure management functions, improves comfort for long-term use.
Combining functional electrical stimulation and a robotic system, training with the specially designed device not only facilitates elbow and wrist joint movement through electric motors but also enhances the recovery and neuroplasticity by inducing additional muscular practice at the elbow, wrist and hand/fingers through electrical stimulation. Rehab Sleeve can further serve as a computer input device enabling the combination of training tasks with interactive computer games and applications, thus enhancing the patient’s interest in training and yielding more effective rehabilitation results.
Patients usually require 20 sessions of rehabilitative training wearing Rehab Sleeve. The research team evaluated the training effectiveness of using the system for between three and six months in over 30 patients. The preliminary results showed that the novel electrical stimulation training can better accelerate the recovery of patients’ upper-limb functioning comparing with conventional training. ♦