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Stretchable sensor for stroke recovery treatment
February 24, 2018, 2:07 pm

Scientists at Northwestern University in partnership with Chicago’s Shirley Ryan AbilityLab have developed a new stretchable sensor worn around the throat that could be a game-changer in the field of stroke rehabilitation.

The new sensor sticks directly to the skin and monitors detailed health metrics including heart function, muscle activity and quality of sleep. The data provided by the sensor is precise enough for use in advanced medical care and portable enough to be worn outside the hospital, even during extreme exercise.

The bandage-like throat sensor measures patients' swallowing ability and patterns of speech, aiding in the diagnosis and treatment of aphasia, a communication disorder associated with stroke.

The tools that speech-language pathologists have traditionally used to monitor patients' speech function, such as microphones, cannot distinguish between patients' voices and ambient noise. The new sensors solve that problem because they are stuck on skin of the throat and can directly measure vibrations of the vocal chords.

The throat sensor can be used in conjunction with electronic biosensors on the legs, arms and chest to monitor stroke patients' recovery progress. The intermodal system of sensors streams data wirelessly to clinicians' phones and computers, providing a quantitative, full-body picture of patients' advanced physical and physiological responses in real time.

Because the sensors are wireless, they eliminate barriers posed by traditional health monitoring devices in clinical settings. Patients can wear them even after they leave the hospital, allowing doctors to understand how their patients are functioning in the real world.

One of the biggest problems that doctors face with stroke patients is that the gains tend to drop off when they leave the hospital. With the ability to monitor patients at home, the new sensors allow doctors to intervene at the right time, which could lead to better, faster recoveries for patients.

Data from the sensors are presented in a dashboard that is easy for both clinicians and patients to understand. It will send alerts when patients are underperforming on a certain metric and allow them to set and track progress toward their goals.


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