High Tech Equipment Advances Progress for Rehab Patients at UM Shore Regional Health
When people we love lose the function of their arms or legs, we want the best therapies to help them regain their mobility and independence. It’s good news that University of Maryland Shore Regional Health has technologically advanced systems to help patients recover the use of their limbs after suffering a stroke or other brain, muscle or bone injury.
“High-tech equipment, combined with advanced use of data, enables us to jump-start our patents’ ability to walk and use their arms and hands and ultimately speeds recovery time,” says Stephen Wills, MD, medical director, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services and the Requard Center for Acute Rehabilitation at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton. “When I came to Shore Regional Health in 2008, I was very impressed at the level of technical sophistication of our facilities and the skill of the therapists and nurses – and since then, it’s gotten even better.”
The LiteGait System has been helping patients recover their walking ability since the opening of the Requard Center in 2007. Margaret Wood, MSPT, says, “Walking is one of the cornerstones of independence. The LiteGait is exciting because it enables the therapist to work on gait in a safe manner, with lots of repetitions. LiteGait technology can make all the difference for patients in the first five weeks following a stroke.”
A harness system that supports the weight of the body for walking or for treadmill training, LiteGait holds the patient up, taking some of the weight off his or her legs, and can be adjusted if more support is needed on the weaker side of the body. The LiteGait is useful with a range of patients — including those with severe or complex conditions — because it helps them move with proper upright posture and take many more steps with a more normal trunk movement and arm swing. With LiteGait, patients can begin gait training earlier and at a lower level; walking is easier and safer since there is no risk of falling.
The Requard Center acquired two new technologies in 2015 – the InMotion Upper Extremity Robot for the arms and the GAITRite System for the legs. The purchase of these leading-edge technologies was made possible by a $100,000 contribution from UM Memorial Hospital Foundation, which had dedicated its spring, 2015 fundraising appeal to the enhancement of rehabilitation technology in the Requard Center. Both GAITRite and InMotion use computer-generated data to assess needs, monitor progress and help staff deliver the most effective therapies.
The InMotion Upper Extremity Robot helps people better coordinate and strengthen their arm movements. Patients hold the device in their hands and are gently guided by the Robot in doing computer activities; their arm moves forward and sideways or stays still as they perform 400 to 600 repetitions in each session. The robot’s computer continuously adapts to patients’ abilities, providing minimal assistance and measuring his or her progress – the smoothness, control and stability with which tasks are completed – to help recover movement.
“We’re focused on increasing the amount of repetitions into the thousands to reestablish the brain-arm connection and retrain the arm to perform everyday tasks,” says Sara Pender, MS OTR/L. “Our hope is for patients to regain their independence and live life to the fullest.”
The GAITRite system at Requard is a portable electronic walkway that helps speed patients’ recovery in walking. Sensors in the walkway capture the geometry and timing of each step as patients walk along the plastic carpet. The GAITrite breaks down the components of walking — step length, cadence, velocity and limb movement — allowing staff to assess the effectiveness of therapies and make adjustments to help the patient walk safely and efficiently.
Of the benefits of Requard’s advanced technology, William Roth, senior director of Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services, says, “If a patient can begin his or her recovery with an intensive, inpatient acute rehabilitation that includes the benefits of high-tech equipment, the stage is set for significantly better recovery.”
Outpatients who lack the strength or coordination to walk benefit from the Lokomat, which has been at Shore Rehab Center at Easton since 2008. This state-of-the-art equipment is the only one of its kind on Maryland’s Eastern Shore – it is found mostly in large research and university hospitals.
Mary Robinson is among the patients who have benefited from physical therapy using the Lokomat. Due to a cyst on her spinal cord, Robinson has used a wheelchair since 2012. With a parachute-like harness to support her body weight on a treadmill and robotic legs strapped around her legs and moving them in a natural walk, Robinson can walk in place safely — long enough to have traversed a mile. The first time she used the Lokomat was a revelation for Robinson: She found she could use her legs to initiate movement.
The Lokomat enables patients to begin rehabilitation sooner; to walk with a normal, consistent pattern and pace; and to walk faster and for longer periods of time. In addition, walking on the Lokomat may improve patients’ cardiovascular fitness and maintain or improve their bone density. A computer controls the pace of the Lokomat while recording how much weight is placed on the treadmill, the distance and speed of walking, and the body’s response to the movement. Using the data, therapists determine the balance between the assistance provided by the robotic legs and the patient’s participation, and measure progress over time.
After 30 Lokomat sessions, Robinson had worked up to 45 minutes per session at a rapid walking pace. “The Lokomat lets my body move through space without pain, stiffness or the usual restrictions of a chronic illness,” she says. “For two or three days after a session, my legs are looser, my knees are bending, my feet have sensation; I have relief. The Lokomat is my ticket to freedom.”
“Many rehab patients and their family members are initially surprised when they see the sophistication of our equipment,” says Roth. “But they are grateful that our state-of-the art technology – combined with the expertise of our highly trained clinical staff – enables them to get top-quality rehabilitation care close to home.”