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Have you ever had physical therapy after an injury? Compliance with home exercise is a significant barrier to recovery for both patients and physical therapists. Typically, you go to the therapist two or three times a week and then are expected to perform prescribed exercises at home two or three times a day. I know from experience after rotator cuff surgery that even with the best intentions and clearly diagrammed exercise instructions, it’s often hard to be sure you’re doing the exercises correctly. Since the therapist doesn’t know exactly how, or if, you’re completing your exercises, it’s hard for them to assess the efficacy of particular exercises. Now imagine how much greater both problems, patient and healthcare provider, can be with physical therapy following a stroke, where full or partial loss of use of an arm and hand is common.

Each year in the U.S. approximately 795,000 people have strokes, about 600,000 of which are first attacks, according to the Internet Stroke Center. The U.S. numbers are more than five times greater than 160,000 annual strokes in the U.K. Among the U.K stroke victims approximately 60% of moderate to severe cases do not recover full use of their arm and hand. These dire statistics prompted a collaboration between the University of Southampton and Imperial College London to develop smart sleeve technology to improve the results of physical therapy for stroke patients.

The goal of the U.K. project is development of a wireless smart sleeve that can send data to a smart tablet. The sleeve incorporates mechanomyography (MMG) sensors that detect the muscle vibration on contraction and inertial measurement units (IMU) to detect movement via tri-axial accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers. A patient-friendly interface on the tablet can help patients complete their exercises properly and see their progress. The same gathered data gives the clinicians diagnostic and progress reports.

There is no set timetable for entering trials or bringing the smart sleeve to market, but the cost of rehabilitation and the increasingly aging populations in both the U.K and the U.S. are strong motivations to proceed to market readiness.