Medical Moment: Revolutionary Stroke Recovery
Every 40 seconds, a person in the United States has a stroke, which affects their ability to walk, move and speak.
For most surviving patients, the progression reaches plateaus after six months of treatment. But now, a revolutionary new brain-controlled device is helping people regain the use of their hands years, if not decades, after their stroke.
With his poles and his tackle box, Mark Forrest has gone to do what he loves most. But Mark thought he caught his last fish six years ago.
“He was mumbling, he couldn’t move his hand,” remembers Patti, Mark’s wife. “And, so I, I just told him, I said, ‘You’re having a stroke.'”
“By the time I got to the hospital, my whole right side was dead,” Mark says.
Over the next six months, Mark took a step back, but not much.
“I was getting really depressed, I was like, I have to find something.”
That something was this: the first FDA-approved brain computer interface for chronic stroke survivors.
Neurosurgeon Eric Leuthardt has created an exoskeleton that uses electrical signals in the brain to control hand movement.
“Their brain is essentially relearning to use another part of the brain to affect control of that paralyzed hand,” Leuthardt explains.
A non-invasive headset picks up signals from the brain through the scalp, sending the signals wirelessly to the robotic arm. A tablet guides the patient through exercises.
“It’s used to really retrain your brain to reconnect your brain,” Leuthardt explains. “So you don’t need this system long term.”
Patients who had their stroke six months ago – or even ten years ago – have seen improvement. As for Mark, he can fish again and has even built his own boat.
“It’s just being there, that’s what I really love, and I’m grateful that I can do it.” said Forrest.
Anyone who has suffered a stroke and has good cognitive function would be a candidate for this device. Neurolutions hopes to make it available to everyone next year and believes it will be covered by Medicare.
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