Strokes, and the failure to timely recognize, diagnose and treat are on the rise. Approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year in the United States. More than half of those affected will suffer from arm paralysis, which is the inability of a muscle or group of muscles to move voluntarily. When messages from the brain to the muscles don’t work properly due to a stroke, a limb becomes paralyzed or develops a condition called spasticity.
As a Stroke Malpractice Lawyer I have witnessed too many individuals suffer with permanent injuries following a stroke. To that end, stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.
As reported by the Chicago News Cooperative, Dr. Julius Dewald is trying to meld medicine, science and engineering in a path-breaking way to better understand such impairment and how robotic therapy might help people who have had strokes perform the 1,001 little movements we take for granted.
Dr. Dewald is chairman of the department of physical therapy and human movement sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Dewald, and his 25-person team are trying to determine if electromechanical devices can more precisely measure impairment and accelerate what is now a belated, long and expensive rehabilitation.
If the damage is on the left side of the brain, the right arm is affected, and with it the ability to control a joint at a time. Even if patients can move the arm somewhat, they won’t have the independent control of joints in the elbow, wrist and fingers.
Over time, the project team hopes the robot can help patients better extend their arm — not completely, but more than they can now. Then the robot can add weight, making the limb heavier, so the patient can mirror a situation akin to living without the robot.
Of course, the best way to treat stroke injuries is to prevent permanent stroke damage in the first instance. This requires timely recognition by the patient, and appropriate medical treatment by qualified medical personnel.
Timely is the key word, because time is the enemy after a stroke. The most effective form of treatment available, t-PA (a medication used to dissolve blood clots), must be delivered within 3 hours of the time the stroke symptoms first appear. If given later, it is not effective, and it can cause major bleeding inside the brain and can lead to death.