Sydney MacRae with Eden Private director of rehabilitation Dr Phoebe Slape.
Sydney MacRae with Eden Private director of rehabilitation Dr Phoebe Slape.

How robots are rehabilitating CQ patients

A HI-TECH rehabilitation centre is drawing people from as far as Rockhampton to the Sunshine Coast.

Eden Private Hospital’s robotics technology, which recently arrived from Austria, helps adult and adolescent rehabilitation patients improve functional deficits associated with stroke and other neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, and more.

The hospital claims it is the only centre in south-east Queensland to offer such an extensive robotics rehabilitation program.

Bundaberg’s Jennifer Blackburn was among the first to trial the new technology, which she said doubled the strength in her hand following nerve damage.

“I was surprised at how good the equipment was and how quickly it made a difference to my grip strength and dexterity,” she said.

“After just two weeks of using the equipment – which involved playing a series of games designed to test pressure and movement in my hand – I could tell the difference, even though I still have limited feeling in two of my fingers.

“It was a fun way to do rehabilitation and much more stimulating and motivational than traditional treatment which just involves a series of hand exercises. Tyrotherapy made the treatment go faster and it was more rewarding.”

Jennifer Blackburn's hand using the equipment.
Jennifer Blackburn's hand using the equipment.

CEO Jo Munday said hospital operator Healthe Care successfully trialled the technology earlier this year at Eden Private and one of its hospitals in New South Wales before establishing the advanced rehabilitation program.

“Our focus is on remaining at the forefront of new and innovative technologies that can improve outcomes for patients, and there is a significant evidence-base on the benefits of introducing robotics into our rehabilitation program,” she said.

Eden Private director of rehabilitation Dr Phoebe Slape said the results and feedback from patients who trialled the robotics technology was overwhelmingly positive.

“One of Eden’s young stroke survivors said she felt she completed her exercises much more comprehensively on the devices than she did in traditional therapy sessions and we had a patient with multiple sclerosis tell us she felt significant benefit from the couple of weeks of the trial,” she said.

“Evidence shows repetition aids recovery and, across the board, patients find the robotics not only challenges, but engages them to keep working towards their goals, with gaming and virtual reality incorporated to aid in motivation.”

Eden Private Hospital exercise physiologist John Turnbull said the new technology enabled the hospital to enhance the effect of traditional rehabilitation by allowing patients to engage in a higher volume of therapy within a similar or reduced time frame.

“It has particular application for those who have suffered a stroke as it provides the opportunity for greater engagement with cognitive and motor retraining activities, which is vital to promoting recovery of lost function,” he said.

“Exposure to increased volume and activity is the most important thing in neurological recovery for many patients and with stroke the common theme is ‘the more you do, the better you recover’.”

Mr Turnbull said the technology also enabled real-time feedback during therapy sessions and would be offered as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program that included traditional interdisciplinary therapies.

“The new technology provides reports on assessment, activity volume and progress and connects the patient information across the various devices so they can see how they are progressing in a graphic way, which can be highly motivating,” he said.

“We believe the incorporation of this new technology along with a rehabilitation program heavily focused on functional retraining will allow us to achieve optimal results with patients.”

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