Portable device for 3D movement analysis in the home

From the time stroke patients are admitted to hospital and during the rehabilitation process, nurses and physiotherapists conduct observation and note-taking using subjective analysis to gauge each patient's condition.

Now a National ICT Australia (NICTA) invention stands to revolutionise stroke treatment, taking it from pencil-and-paper to 3D reconstruction of motion analysis, accessed in the cloud.

Every year around the globe, 15 million people have strokes – five million of whom will die, and another five million of whom will be disabled.

Stroke is Australia’s second-biggest killer behind heart disease. Care for stroke patients costs $2.14 billion a year, and 88 per cent of care is provided at home.

The idea to use a 3D motion analysis device for stroke rehab came about because of the non-scientific measurement physiotherapists had to use in artificial clinical environments – surroundings that limited analysis to a few tasks.

In-home monitoring via a portable motion-analysis system, however, allows physiotherapists to look at natural movements.

NICTA has invented software to give 3D reconstructions of the movement data collected from the user. The program is a huge cost saving from current 3D motion analysis, which still has the artificiality of a lab environment and requires a $50,000 camera system.

The portable motion-analysis system is a small wireless device that can be attached to any part of a limb. It has a battery life of eight to 10 hours, and collects data on a micro SD card.

The ultimate aim is for the device to upload the data to the cloud for reporting, analysis and referral among physiotherapists, physicians and hospital clinicians.

While there are other portable home devices on the market, NICTA’s system provides for long-term monitoring, which it says others cannot.

NICTA is running a 12-month clinical validation program with the Royal Melbourne Hospital to measure the efficacy of botox injections in reducing muscle spasticity in stroke patients.

Patients wear the sensors on both arms to give a comparison between the disabled limb and the fully functioning limb.

Participants put the devices on in the morning and go about their normal lives at home. The devices are taken off before they go to sleep and the data is relayed and then analysed by the physiotherapists.

Measurements can be taken across any plane of the limb’s movement, and the increase or reduction of mobility given a quantitative value.

“Instead of a patient coming in after the injection and saying, ‘It’s a little bit better’, we can say it’s 20 per cent better,” NICTA biomedical devices and signal processing group leader Tharshan Vaithianathan said.

NICTA health and life sciences director Jia-Yee Lee said that removing the human element of observation and recording gives physiotherapists more time for other work, and reduces the cost of consults and patient transport to the health system.

“It’s not just the patients who are the beneficiaries of this technology; it’s also the physiotherapists,” Dr Lee said.

NICTA plans to conduct market analysis in the next three to six months, and hopes to have the device commercialised in 12 months. Overseas clinical studies will begin after commercialisation.

Posted in Allied Health

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